70% of Young Finance Professionals Choose Big Firms to Fast-Track Career, but Want Experience Available at Start-Ups

Next generation of finance leaders seek to have an impact on organizational strategy, digital transformation, and growth

San Mateo, CA, September 29, 2021 – Tipalti, the leading global payables automation company, today announced findings from its recent survey of young professionals in finance roles, recent college graduates, and finance undergraduates in the US. Nearly half (46%) of young professionals want to work in the finance department of a large company, and 24% want to join the ranks of a large bank, investment, or brokerage firm. Surprisingly, only 8% want to work for non-tech, small or midsize companies, and just 6% are interested in working for tech startups. The survey analyzed how they are charting their paths to becoming a CFO.

“The next generation of finance professionals often view large companies and big banks as their ticket to a CFO career fast-track – a crucial opportunity for them to learn the most in the least amount of time,” said Sarah Spoja, Chief Financial Officer at Tipalti. “They want to make a big impact right away and may feel that they have no time to waste. Large firms offer the opportunity to quickly absorb and learn as much as they can from market leaders, which is especially critical early in their careers. But what I do find interesting from the survey is that the types of problems these young professionals want to solve and get inspired by tend to be more closely related to the types of experiences they would gain working at a startup rather than a large firm.”

The survey also explored the issues young professionals are most eager to solve in their future CFO roles. Finding new paths for growth – for example, through securing funding (for private companies) and acquisitions – was cited by 39% as the most exciting problem for them to solve if they became a CFO. Nearly as many, 38%, found the prospect of modernizing finance with technology to be compelling.

When asked what would most inspire them to become a CFO, 45% said a high salary was the top inspiration. Other inspirations included managing financial operations (28%), working closely with a company’s CEO to influence and make key business decisions (25%), problem-solving (25%), and managing a team (24%). The least inspirational were functions such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, treasury management, and procurement—all less than 15%.

“Young professionals are excited by opportunities to contribute meaningfully to an organization’s success,” adds Spoja. “Companies that wish to retain this talented group of future finance leaders should find ways to incorporate these new perspectives in strategic projects, especially in areas where their lived experiences may differ from others around the table — for example in digital transformation, technology adoption, and sustainability work.”

Survey methodology

The “Swiss Army CFO”: Responsibilities Expand Far Beyond Finance report research was conducted by Censuswide, with three samples: 353 CFOs & members of the finance team at midsize (250-1,000 employees) at technology companies, 350 18+ CEOs at midsize technology companies and 350 18-35 year olds, young professionals in finance roles, recent college graduates and soon to be graduates (finance undergrads) in the US between July 21, 2021 through August 2, 2021. The survey was conducted from a nationally representative of US adults. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles.