The most valuable qualities in a CFO

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This month, we’re taking a look at some of the highest paid and most successful CFOs in Canada to see what specific characteristics standout and contribute to their healthy incomes and the reputable titles that have been earned.

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Who they are, what they’ve earned and how they’ve earned it

Dean McCann

Dean McCann, the chief financial officer of Canadian Tire Corporation, Ltd. was recently given the title of being Canada’s CFO of the year. Not only does McCann have experience in finance, but he is also known for achieving strong results during periods of global economic uncertainty. Furthermore, McCann is a graduate of the McMaster Chartered Director program at Queen’s University, having gained a bachelor in commerce and a business degree.

As a recipient of “Canada’s CFO of the Year” award, McCann is recognized for traits that include quality, insight, direction and leadership. According to Bloomberg, McCann earned over US$2 million in 2014 as total compensation for his work. This income includes salary, bonuses and other types of compensation.

Brian D. Lawson

Brian D. Lawson is not only Brookfield Assest Management’s CFO, but he is also a senior managing partner of the company. Being with the group since the early 90s, Lawson has acquired talents and qualities that include financial reporting, risk management and funding activities of the organization. These qualities are believed to have helped Lawson earn $3.2 million dollars in total compensation in 2014 according to Bloombers.

Lawson originally graduated from Trinity College School in 1978, followed by a Bachelor of Arts from University of Toronto in 1983. Other valuable qualities Lawson has been able to acquire throughout his career in senior management include leadership, dedication and reliability.

Janice Fukakusa

As the CFO of RBC, or the Royal Bank of Canada, one of Janice Fukakusa’s responsibilities is to set the overall strategic directions of the bank. She’s also accountable for enabling the integration of governance and overseeing the day to day functional, operating and technology activities across RBC.

With a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Master of Business Administration from Schulich School of Business, Fukakusa has experience and a range of knowledge and skills in different areas, such as operating and technology activities, managing accounts, corporate finance and strategic developments. According to Bloomberg, she earned over US$5 million during fiscal year 2014, with the combination of her salary, bonuses and other types of compensation. When asked about valuable CFO qualities, Fukakusa said this:

“Over the course of my 10 year career as CFO, I’ve seen considerable change, increased complexity, and unprecedented conditions. To be successful in this environment, you must be transparent, adaptable and recognize that times of change can present great opportunities. Most importantly, it requires a team of hard working and dedicated individuals who can drive strategy and lead change – positioning us to better serve our clients, employees, shareholders, and communities.”

Colleen Johnston

Among other titles, Colleen Johnston is the CFO of TD Bank Group. Graduating from York University in Toronto in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, she’s been with TD Bank Group since 2004. Throughout her career, Johnston has been associated with various qualities that have undoubtedly allowed her to earn US$3.4 million in total compensation at the end of 2014 fiscal year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Due to past experiences, as well as current ones with TD Bank Group, Johnston has attained a range of valuable characteristics that include leadership, dedication and power. She was recognized by Women’s Executive Network as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women three years in a row and has been named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker. She is well known for promoting diversity in the workplace.

Which qualities bring in the higher incomes?

It’s clear that certain qualities can help contribute to higher incomes. But, specifically, what are these qualities and how can they be obtained. For example, are leadership and dedication something you’re born with, gain with experience or learn over time?

Looking at each of the high earning CFOs mentioned above, it’s noticeable that education is important. It takes knowledge and dedication to go after specific goals, which these examples have not only done, but have also been able to earn a profit by doing so. And while dedication is a vital characteristic in order to get to the top, it’s arguable that experience is equally important.

 McCann, Lawson, Fukakusa and Johnston didn’t start at the top; they didn’t become CFOs overnight. It was through experience that they were able to not only acquire valuable traits, but also perfect them. Then, of course, once each proved to have a grasp of the right qualities, the high salaries followed.

In short, not just one characteristic has allowed these four CFOs to become successful. As well, there are various routes and methods to get to build a respectable career and earn a substantial salary. However, McCann, Lawson, Fukakusa and Johnston can definitely act as a guide to follow.

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Note: This article originally appeared in the June edition of Business Review Canada

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