Quadrant Advisory

The waiting period as you transition from one CFO to the next can be tense, and not always quick. If you want to have the time to find the right candidate, but keep business running smoothly, you need to hire an interim CFO.

It was estimated that 40% of executives were expected to quit in 2023. Whether their departure is planned or otherwise, a vacancy on your leadership team can leave your company feeling vulnerable and disorganized. While you’re on the hunt for a new CFO, consider why it might be prudent to hire an interim CFO to bridge the gap.

Role of an Interim CFO

man works as an interim cfo virtually for a small business. he meets with them with video chat while he prepares financial reports on his computer.

The demand for interim CFOs has gone up 103% since last year. That’s enormous growth for any position. But why the need for more interim CFOs?

An interim CFO is typically needed during transitional periods, such as when a company is undergoing significant changes, facing a financial crisis, or dealing with a sudden departure or vacancy in the CFO position. But they also provide a flexible option when you need help quickly. Tight budgets and economic uncertainty can leave business owners strapped for cash and in need of professional guidance.

Interim CFOs are hired to provide strategic financial leadership, maintain financial stability, and oversee critical financial functions during times of change or uncertainty. Their primary goal is to bridge the gap between the departure of a previous CFO and the selection or onboarding of a permanent replacement. 

Interim CFOs are known for their flexibility, adaptability, and ability to quickly assess and address financial challenges, making them valuable assets during transitional phases in a company’s lifecycle.

When You Might Need to Hire an Interim CFO

The role of CFO is too large for most organizations to resorb while recruiting their next full-time replacement. Undoubtedly, it can cause a ripple effect throughout the company. Some common scenarios where hiring an interim CFO can be beneficial include:

  • Leadership Transition:
    • Sudden departure or resignation of the existing CFO. Planned and unplanned departures can leave you without an immediate replacement.
  • Financial Crisis:
    • During periods of financial distress or crisis, immediate financial expertise is crucial for stabilizing the organization.
  • Merger or Acquisition:
    • During the process of mergers or acquisitions, an interim CFO can provide the financial leadership required to navigate complex financial integrations and ensure a smooth transition.
  • Divestiture or Spin-off:
    • When a company is divesting or spinning off a business unit, an interim CFO can manage the financial intricacies of the separation.
  • Rapid Growth or Scaling:
    • In situations of rapid business growth or scaling, they can help implement scalable financial systems, processes, and controls.
  • Special Projects or Initiatives:
    • Execution of special financial projects such as system implementations, restructuring, or process improvements may require specialized financial leadership.
  • IPO Preparation:
    • Companies preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) may bring in an interim CFO to navigate the complexities of financial reporting, compliance, and investor relations.
  • Interim Leadership Needs:
    • In cases where there’s a temporary leadership vacuum in the CFO position, an interim CFO can step in to maintain financial operations and leadership.
  • Strategic Change or Reorganization:
    • During times of significant organizational change, a company might hire an interim CFO to lead the financial aspects of the strategic shift or reorganization.
  • Knowledge Transfer and Succession Planning
    • They can be brought in to facilitate the transition between outgoing and incoming CFOs, ensuring a smooth transfer of knowledge and responsibilities.

In these scenarios, an interim CFO’s flexibility, experience, and ability to quickly adapt to the organization’s needs can be instrumental in providing stability and strategic financial guidance during critical periods.

Difference Between Fractional and Interim CFOs

Both fractional and interim CFOs are flexible options for startups, growth stage, and small businesses in need of financial leadership. Their roles and responsibilities differ slightly. Fractional CFOs tend to have a longer-term investment in the organization and provide continued support and guidance similar to an in-house CFO without the costly overhead of a full-time employee.

Interim CFOs use their expertise to approach a specific problem or work alongside an organization for a set period of time. Both types are advantageous for their flexibility and experience. They can transition smoothly into your organization and get you the support you need quickly. 

Your team will have to determine what type of CFO best fits your needs. In some cases, interim CFOs can transition into a fractional CFO role if needed. The most important thing is that you don’t leave your company exposed to more risks without a finance function in place.  

What to Look for in an Interim CFO

Odds are if you are looking for an interim CFO, you need to make decisions quickly. Choosing the right person can be the difference between a smooth transition and additional headaches. Ask your prospective interim CFO the right questions to ensure they will be the right fit. 

  • What are your areas of expertise and knowledge? Do you have experience in our industry? 
  • What are your strengths as a CFO?
  • What previous transitions have you handled? 
  • How would you describe your communication style? How do you plan to communicate with the existing leadership team? 
  • Give an example of a time when you were able to adapt to unexpected circumstances or learn a new skill. 

You can also ask them for references or case studies of previous work. Even if it is a temporary position, do your due diligence before aligning with an interim CFO candidate. 

a woman works at a desk managing financial reports

The Impact of an Interim CFO

For example, if you were a rapidly growing technology startup facing a period of intense expansion, an interim CFO might be the key to managing growth. You might find that even if your client base and revenue are seeing growth, your financial infrastructure might not naturally keep pace. Things like financial reporting, budgeting, and strategic planning have to match the scale of your business.

In this fictitious case study, a tech startup faced with rapid growth utilized an interim CFO to make sure that its financial infrastructure kept pace with the scale of the business. 


An interim CFO can jump in and perform a comprehensive assessment of the company’s financial processes, identify bottlenecks, and work with the existing team to understand challenges and strengths.

1. Implementing Scalable Financial Systems

They can upgrade accounting software, enhance budgeting tools, and introduce real-time financial reporting mechanisms.

2. Strategic Planning and Forecasting

Interim CFOs can develop robust financial forecasts that align with company growth projections. This can support leadership teams as they make decisions regarding resource allocation, investment priorities, and strategic initiatives.

3. Process Optimization

They can streamline workflows and introduce automation and AI where possible. Not only increasing the efficiency of the finance team but also reducing the margin of error in financial reporting.

Additionally, interim CFOs can educate and empower your finance team and increase investor confidence. The stability and strategy that come with hiring an interim CFO can help you navigate times of expansion with resiliency while you determine your next hire.

What to Do Next

One of the quickest ways to get a trusted interim CFO on your team is to work with an established managed accounting firm with fractional and interim CFOs on hand.

The team at Quadrant Advisory has decades of combined experience working with startup and growth-stage companies through every financial scenario possible. Our team of accountants, controllers, and CFOs are practiced at driving results with strategic financial analysis.  

We’ve seen it all so we can help you through it all. You can contact us for a free consultation where you can share your biggest challenges and we can listen.