RegulationCorporate GovernanceOn the money

On the money

‘Wanted. One resilient chief financial officer, skilled in internal politics and willing to step up into the CEO’s job when the incumbent decides he’s had enough.’

That’s how the job ad might read for the post of CFO at Citigroup right now.
The job has been the subject of much press attention in recent weeks; firstly
because Citigroup’s CEO Chuck Prince announced that any candidate must also be a
candidate for his own job at an undefined point in the future, and also because
of the context in which the search is taking place. The man who was tipped to be
Prince’s successor – Todd Thomson – departed unceremoniously last week and his
job was taken over by current CFO Sallie Krawcheck.

While Prince’s action has been interpreted as a sign of strength, it has also
attracted a fair amount of flak and much concern about the executive team’s
apparent lack of strength in depth.

The question is, would you want to throw your hat in the ring for what seems
like a job at the heart of a maelstrom right now? As Prince points out, you’d
need to be more than a simple numbers man. You would need to be a consummate
corporate politician, be hard as nails, still know the numbers and accounting
standards inside out, and have the hide of a rhino because you’d know, after
being tipped so early on for the CEO’s job, that everyone would be out to get
you.

Who needs that? Of course, you would be heading the world’s biggest financial
services firm, and be on a fat salary, with even fatter share options. But do
you really want the grief?

It begs the question about all those jobs in challenging places, and what it
is that makes people want to take them. They’re no mere mortals, surely.

Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age

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