Case Studies

The CFO: Frequently The First Non-Family Executive Appointment.

Family businesses are often characterised by their deep-rooted values, strong sense of heritage, and long-term vision. When it comes to appointing the first non-family executive, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Finance Director, is often the role in question.

This critical appointment brings unique challenges beyond simply integrating an outsider into the family business. Identifying the right skill set for today’s needs while anticipating future requirements, such as mergers and acquisitions, international expansion, and potential exits, adds layers of complexity to the recruitment process. Here, we explore strategies to ensure a successful CFO appointment and their subsequent integration into a family business.

The Multiple Challenges of Hiring a CFO

Integration into a family business culture can be fraught with difficulties. The first non-family executive must align with the business’s values and culture. The new CFO needs to acclimatise themselves to the workings of the family and earn the trust of both family members and long-standing employees.

Today’s CFO needs to manage current financial operations while being equipped to handle future growth and strategic initiatives.

The challenge lies in finding someone who can excel in the present yet adapt to evolving business needs, such as M&A, international expansion, and disposals.

This requires a careful balance between immediate competencies and potential for future development. Determining whether to hire someone who can grow into the role or to over-hire for anticipated future needs is a significant decision. Supporting a less experienced candidate with external advisors or a non-executive director (NED) with the right experience can be a viable strategy but requires a clear plan and robust support systems.

Ensuring the Right CFO Appointment

Start Early and Plan Ahead

Advance planning is essential. Begin considering the role and drafting a detailed job description well in advance, understanding that recruiting a suitable candidate can take up to six months. Defining the immediate responsibilities and future expectations clearly is crucial. This includes financial oversight, strategic planning, risk management, and potential involvement in M&A activities.

Gain Consensus Among Stakeholders

Engage other business leaders and family members to agree on the job description and the ideal candidate profile. This consensus helps ensure the new CFO aligns with the

business’s vision, values, and culture. It is important to focus on the candidate’s character and their ability to fit into the family business culture, beyond their technical skills and experience.

Clarify Role Expectations

Develop clear expectations for the role and define what success looks like. This includes setting financial targets, strategic milestones, and key performance indicators (KPIs). Establish how the CFO will communicate with the family, board, and other stakeholders. Define the reporting structure, frequency of meetings, and the type of information to be shared.

Develop a Comprehensive Integration Plan

Create a detailed plan for how the new CFO will familiarise themselves with the company’s heritage, vision, values, and culture. Identify which family members, key stakeholders, customers, and suppliers the CFO needs to meet. Plan visits to important sites and attendance at industry conferences and exhibitions to build their network and industry knowledge.

Design a Competitive Remuneration Package

Develop a comprehensive remuneration plan that includes a competitive base salary, benefits, and performance-related pay. Consider long-term incentive plans (LTIPs), phantom equity schemes, bonuses, and profit-sharing arrangements to align the CFO’s interests with the long-term success of the business.


Hiring the first non-family CFO or Finance Director in a family business is a significant step that requires careful planning, clear communication, and a well-thought-out integration strategy. By starting early, gaining consensus among stakeholders, clarifying role expectations, and developing a comprehensive integration and remuneration plan, family businesses can ensure they make the right appointment. This approach not only facilitates the successful integration of the new CFO but also positions the business for sustainable growth and long-term success.

About the Author: David Twiddle is Managing Partner at TWYD & Co, a boutique executive search and talent advisory firm for family business.


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