CFO Turnover in 2022 Slows, But Don’t Expect it to Stay

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October 25, 2022
5 min read
Leadership StrategiesCareer TransitionsLeadershipSuccession PlanningConsumerEducationFinancial ServicesGovernmentHealthcareIndustrialTechnologyProfessional ServicesExecutive SearchC-Suite SuccessionDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion AdvisoryDevelopment and Transition
Executive Summary
CFO turnover dips with a quarter left in 2022, however, multiple trends are suggesting that turnover will be on the rise in the last quarter of the year.
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Republished by Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.


 

CFO Turnover in 2022 Slows, But Don’t Expect it to Stay

As of Q3 in 2022, there have been 71 CFO transitions within the S&P 500, bringing turnover to 14% year to date. This number is slightly down from 16% at this time last year (Figure 1), likely due to CFOs favoring the job security of their current role as the market slows.

However, this slowing turnover may paint a misleading picture. Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed CFOs from the S&P 500 from 2019 to 2022 (N = 500) to compare turnover rates at the end of Quarter 3 (Q1-Q3) and gain insight into the latest hiring trends such as gender diversity, internal versus external promotions, first-time in the role and CFO exits. We found that, while turnover was indeed down in the first three quarters of 2022, multiple trends are suggesting that turnover will continue to rise in the last quarter of the year.

  1. Due to the expected increase in market volatility, CFOs should expect more scrutiny of their job performances from the CEO and Board, therefore increasing the potential for increased turnover. 

  2. Better succession planning is leading to more internal and first-time CFO appointments, resulting in the fight for women CFO talent to carry on, with the percentage of newly appointed women CFOs continuing to outpace the broader S&P 500, although slightly down since last year.

  3. Finally, CFO retirement rates increased for the first time in three years, indicating that more turnover is likely on the horizon.

Figure 1. Trending CFO Turnover

graphic1

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, N= 500
    Note: 7 of the new CFOs are interim

 

Better succession planning is creating more ready-now women CFOs

Succession planning continues to pay off for S&P 500 companies, with 63% of newly appointed CFOs being promoted internally. Coming off a tight CFO talent market in 2021 with a record number of IPOs, even those looking externally for CFO talent are having to get creative. 38% of external hires are first-time in the role, bringing the total percent of newly appointed CFOs first-time in role to 77%, both record highs for the past several years (Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Trending Interval versus External Appointments

Graphic2

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, n= 264
    Note: 7 of the new CFOs are interim

 

Succession planning has been successful in improving CFO gender diversity, as a result, this talent is starting to be open to external roles, as public companies become more open to first-time CFOs (Figure 3.) This will likely lead to increased turnover, especially given the demand for women CFOs. As the fight for talent rages on, companies need to ensure they are engaging with women CFOs and CFO succession candidates, or risk losing them.

Figure 3. Trending Internal versus External Women CFO Appointments

Figure3

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, n= 57
    Note: 1 of the new women CFOs are interim

 

Increased rates of retirement for the first time in years

For the first time in three years, CFO retirement rates have increased (Figure 4.) With 52% of CFOs departing their roles to retire since January 2022, whether increased retirement rates continue through the end of the year raises the question: Will public company CFOs post-pone retirement and wait for their equity to bounce back, or will CFOs who already postponed retirement for the pandemic be keen to retire with stronger headwinds ahead?

Figure 4. Trending CFO Departures

Figure4

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, n=71

 

Of the CFOs who left their roles and did not retire, the majority took non-CFO roles (Figure 5) with 74% of those doing so at their current organization (Figure 6). As we suggested in our previous report on CFO turnover,2 one way to retain and engage CFO talent is by broadening their responsibilities. By broadening CFOs' roles, many CFOs are inspired to take a non-CFO position in their next move, while remaining loyal to their current company.

Figure 5. Number of Departing CFOs Per New Role

Figure5

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P 500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, n= 71

 

Figure 6. 2022 CFO Exists

Figure6

    Source: RRA analysis of S&P 500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022, n= 71

While current market conditions may dampen CFOs' willingness to move companies, the fight for women CFOs, an aging population, and how companies fare during economic uncertainty all suggest that there is still turnover yet to come. To address this risk, we recommend continuing to engage with CFO and succession candidates through career development, enhanced scope of the role, and retention efforts. For those not lucky enough to have the bench strength to backfill potential transitions, next-generation is here and first-time CFOs are ready for the challenge.

 


 

Authors

Linda Barham leads Russell Reynolds Associates' Americas Financial Officers Practice. She is based in Chicago.

Jim Lawson co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates' Global Financial Officers Practice. He is based in New York.

Catherine Schroeder is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates' Financial Officers Practice Knowledge team. She is based in Toronto.

 

References

1. RRA analysis of the S&P 500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of September 2022
2. RRA ‘2021: The year of CFO turnover and strides in gender diversity’, 2021