How to Become a Virtual CFO

The most successful CFOs are those who combine financial skills together with strong leadership and business acumen. Therefore, gaining a deep understanding of the business is critical on the CFO career path. As a CFO, you’ll regularly meet with board members and collaborate with managers. For this reason, you need a broader understanding of the business and operational sides of a company.

As an accountant transitioning to a virtual CFO, you hold various advantages because having solid financial experience makes you more apt to make crucial judgments. For example as a CFO, your job will be to ensure that the CEO and board’s decisions are financially sound, both in regard to resources available and regulatory compliance.

What is A Virtual CFO?

A virtual CFO performs the services of a chief financial officer. However, instead of delivering those services in person, as a full-time employee, the virtual CFO works remotely on a contractual, part-time schedule. A virtual CFO goes beyond tactical advice and offers high-level, strategic guidance to small businesses that can not afford or do not need a full time CFO.

What Qualifications You Need to Become a CFO

Although CFOs come from various backgrounds, certain certifications and advanced degrees tend to make transitioning into the position easier. Chartered Professional Accountant of Canada (CPA) licenses are often the most suited for the role given the wide-reaching skills they represent.

A degree in business administration is often useful in conjunction with the CPA. Other degrees you can take to become a CFO include: public accounting, economics, and public administration.

A master’s degree – usually in one of those same fields – also comes highly preferred because earning one will increase your business and operational understanding. Common master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Analysts
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Managers

Additionally, being able to support sustainable growth within a company takes a variety of hard and soft skills. Those skills include:

1. Accounting skills

CFOs are expected to demonstrate expertise in using accounting software programs, knowing how to prepare and interpret financial statements and other reports, developing efficient financial reporting methods, planning and implementing accounting controls, collaborating with regulators and external auditors, and strictly adhering to regulations, procedures and practices. Additionally, you’ll need to have a solid grasp on abstract subjects that have concrete impacts in the business world, such as the time value of money.

2. Strategy skills

A CFO must present a strong ability to understand business strategies in order to contribute to all areas of the organization. For example, the CEO may be looking for a partner who can think strategically and translate long term goals into the practicalities of financial options and choices.

3. Data skills

According to Deloitte, businesses increasingly expect CFOs to handle business and financial analytics, using it to make highly data-driven decisions. Specific data skills include:

  • Structured Query Language (SQL)
  • Microsoft Excel.
  • R or Python-Statistical Programming
  • Data Visualization
  • Machine Learning

4. Leadership

Almost everything you do as a CFO involves some form of leadership. Examples of situations could be: managing a team, implementing new financial infrastructure or getting other executives on board with a plan.Therefore, understanding leadership fundamentals is crucial to success.

What Are Remote CFO Services?

CFOs are the senior financial managers in charge of supervising the financial actions of a company. Similar to a treasurer or financial controller, CFOs will often oversee an organization’s finance or accounting departments.

However, unlike a controller, the CFO makes decisions that have an impact on the overall direction of the company. For example, a controller may review financial statements to audit them for accuracy and adherence to regulatory compliance. But the CFO reviews those same financial statements to analyze them before making recommendations to improve the company’s financial performance.

Regardless, a CFO is sometimes referred to as a top-level financial controller, because primary responsibilities include overseeing all cash flow and financial planning in an organization.

Other services a remote CFO can offer include:

  • Budgeting: Keeping track of cash flow and debts, and ensuring that spending doesn’t exceed business profits.
  • Forecasting: Plan, execute and oversee upgrades to financial systems, processes, or technologies.
  • Financial Planning: Advise the CEO or other executive members on the financial implications of business plans or current events.
  • Corporate Finance: Provide data-driven analyses and recommendations related to the financial goals of a company.
  • Financial Modelling: Building abstract representations of real financial situations. This is a mathematical model designed to represent the performance of a financial asset or portfolio of a business, project, or any other investment.
  • Tax Analysis: Optimizing income tax to minimize taxes owed, while staying within the guidelines and laws outlined by the CRA
  • Governance: Review formal finance, H.R., or IT-related financial procedures to enforce policies or internal controls.
  • Managing and Hiring Staff: Lead, direct, and manage the organization’s finance or accounting teams.

What Are The Benefits of Becoming A Virtual CFO?

Becoming a virtual CFO is a great way for accountants to transition from providing simple bookkeeping services to become trusted advisors to the businesses they already work with, or potentially bringing on new clients.

Over half of start-up businesses fail within the first three years for a variety of reasons, but one of the most significant is the failure to find a profitable business model – in the end cash flow is the lifeline of an organization. However, not all small businesses can afford a full time CFO, even though having one could be the difference between failure and success.

The benefits for hiring a virtual CFO are quite obvious from the small business owners perspective – so a large benefit for entering into this position is the existing demand.

Becoming a virtual CFO also means you get to set the terms for time and cost that work best for your schedule, and have the option of scaling up or down as your requirements change. This means that if you own your business you can still manage to keep up with both responsibilities.

How Cloud Accounting Software Will Help You Offer Virtual CFO Services

Cloud accounting automates low-value tasks, leaving you with more time to work on more value-added tasks. Therefore if you want to offer valuable virtual CFO services, having a cloud based accounting software is a crucial step. Here are some other major advantages:

Sharing data

As a virtual CFO you will have data spanning across many different systems. Cloud accounting software makes it easy to synchronize and transfer data between different systems.


Cloud accounting software gives you real time reporting and analytics features – which will help you get insights into a client’s financial condition.


Business management solutions can be accessed from any time or place with cloud accounting. This means you offer your clients a higher degree of flexibility.

Bank account reconciliation

Traditional reconciliation is tedious and time-consuming. Cloud accounting software can do it much faster, connecting to online bank and credit card accounts that are also in the cloud. Daily bank transactions are fed into the accounting software and matched to the corresponding transaction. Then all the user has to do is confirm the match.

With QuickBooks Online Accountant you can manage all your work and clients in one place. By giving you access to all your clients financial data you can provide them timely and relevant advice. This will make it easier for them to understand their finances and make profitable decisions.

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