The Difference Between a CFO & Finance Director

by Lucy Friend; Updated September 26, 2017

Many businesses require the skills of professionals to oversee and direct financial operations. These professionals are referred to CFOs, chief financial officers, or financial directors. The responsibilities of a CFO and financial directors can be very similar, but a CFO almost always have additional responsibilities and plays a key role on the top executive team. The differences in responsibilities of these professionals often depend on the type of organization and its size.

Chief Financial Officer

A CFO is one of the top executives for an organization, working closely with the chief executive officer, CEO, or president. Not only does a CFO direct financial operations, they help create company policies and goals to ensure successful operations and continued growth. A CFO creates an organization's budgets for each department and in profitable organizations, sets financial goals to ensure profitability. Depending on the size of the organization, a financial director may report to a CFO.

Financial Director

A financial director oversees and directs the financial operations for an organization. In a smaller organization, a president or CEO may take on the responsibilities of a CFO and the financial director oversees financial operations in accordance to the president or CEO's direction. In larger organizations, the financial director may report directly to the CFO. Although the responsibilities are similar to those of a CFO, a financial director is not part of the top executive team.


Qualifications for both of these professionals are very similar. Employers require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or a related discipline. Employment opportunities may increase for those who obtain a master's degree. Both are required to have extensive experience in all aspects of financial accountability for an organization, and are often progressively promoted in to these roles after years of professional experience and exceptional work.


Because a CFO has more responsibilities, salary is often higher for this occupation. In large organizations, CFOs are often paid a base salary and receive stock options. In December 2010, PaysScale reported the national average salary for CFOs including a base salary, bonuses and profit sharing ranged from $85,923 to $174,472 per year. For financial directors, the average ranged from $73,938 to $149,555 per year.

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