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Latin America CFO Index 2019

For the past decade, Spencer Stuart has analyzed the backgrounds and demographics of CFOs at the largest companies in different markets around the globe. Our first analysis of Latin American CFOs in 2018 helped uncover a deeper understanding of how the region’s finance leaders advanced into the positions they occupy today.

The 2019 Latin America CFO Index continues this effort, analyzing the academic backgrounds, functional experience and professional career paths of 657 CFOs from the largest companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, including both listed and unlisted companies.

Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru Latin America
Total CFOs

69

186

78

95

133

96

657

Executive Summary

  • Gender: 89% men, 11% women, with the highest female presence in Peru (25%) and in the industrial sector (15%)
  • Average Age: 48 years old
  • Country of Origin: 84% local vs. 16% foreign
  • Average Tenure: 5.2 years
  • Internal Promotion vs. External Hires: 54% were promoted internally
  • Previous Experience: 39% had previous experience in the same role
Diversity remains an opportunity

Of the 657 CFOs we studied, only 71 are women (11%). By comparison, 13% of Fortune 500 companies have female CFOs, and 15% of European CFOs are women. We believe the numbers will improve for Latin American companies in coming years as more companies focus on hiring, developing and promoting female talent within the finance function.

Gender diversity in Latin America varies widely by country. Peru (25%) and Colombia (18%) have the largest female presence among Latin American countries, whereas Chile has only one female CFO in our sample.

When analyzing by economic sector, 44 of the 71 female CFOs are in the industrial sector (15%), which represents 47% of all the companies in the study.

Percentage of Female CFOs in Latin America

Overall Latin America
11%
Argentina
9%
Brazil
7%
Chile
1%
Colombia
18%
Mexico
8%
Peru
25%

Percentage of Female CFOs in Latin America, by Industry

Overall Latin America
11%
Consumer
9%
Financial Services
6%
Healthcare
13%
Industrial
15%
Technology, Media and Telecommunications
8%
Average age remains steady

The average age of CFOs in Latin America remains 48 years old in 2019, with the youngest being 31 and the oldest 74. Average CFO age is relatively stable within each country and industry, and among listed and unlisted companies. By comparison, European CFOs are on average 52 years old. The average CFO age at appointment in Latin America is 43, compared to 46 years old in Europe.

Most Latin American CFOs are local

Eighty-six percent (86%) of CFOs in our index work in their home country. Argentina (93%) and Brazil (92%) have the highest proportion of local CFOs, and Chile (79%) and Peru (73%) have the lowest.

By comparison, small countries with open economies such as Switzerland (30%), the Netherlands (32%) and Belgium (47%) have low rates of local CFOs. On the contrary, larger markets such as the United States (95%) and Germany (92%) have high ratios of local CFOs.

Percentage of Foreign CFOs

Overall Latin America
15%
Argentina
7%
Brazil
8%
Chile
21%
Colombia
16%
Mexico
14%
Peru
27%
39% of all CFOs had previous experience in the role

Of the 657 CFOs we analyzed, 258 (39%) had previous experience in the role. At the country level, Chile (45%), and Colombia (45%) are the most likely to hire CFOs with previous experience in the role while Argentina (32%) is the least likely. By comparison, countries such as Belgium (58%), Denmark (55%) and the UK (51%) are more conservative and tend to hire experienced CFOs, whereas countries such as Spain (31%), the United States (29%) and Germany (27%) are more open to hiring CFOs without experience.

In our study, 31% of all women and 40% of all men had previous experience as CFO.

Percentage of CFOs with Previous Experience in the Role

Overall Latin America
39%
Argentina
32%
Brazil
41%
Chile
45%
Colombia
45%
Mexico
35%
Peru
35%
Latin American CFOs tend to be mobile across industries

In general, CFOs in Latin America have have more cross-industry mobility than other leadership positions. This is particularly true in the consumer industry, which draws 70% of its CFOs from other industries.

Companies in the financial services and industrial sectors, on the other hand, tend to seek CFO candidates with experience within those industries; 71% of financial services companies and 63% of industrial companies hired their CFOs from within their same industry.

Female CFOs are far less likely to have worked in the same industry — just 30% — a sign that companies are willing to look across industries for a wider pool of female candidates.

Based on our analysis, there is no significant difference between listed and unlisted companies in terms of previous experience.

Previous Industry Experience

Consumer Education, Nonprofit and Government Financial Services Healthcare Industrial Technology, Media and Telecommunications
Consumer

31%

0%

17%

2%

42%

8%

Education, Nonprofit and Government

25%

25%

25%

0%

25%

0%

Financial Services

6%

0%

71%

2%

20%

0%

Healthcare

11%

0%

33%

33%

11%

11%

Industrial

9%

4%

20%

0%

63%

4%

Technology, Media and Telecommunications

15%

0%

38%

0%

23%

23%

54% of Latin American CFOs are appointed internally

Companies seem to prefer internal promotion to fill the CFO position rather than going to the market and hiring an external candidate. Argentina (72%) and Peru (69%) are the countries with the highest rates of internal promotions, while Brazil (44%) and Colombia (38%) are more often hiring their CFOs from external sources. By comparison, in the United States 68% of Fortune 500 companies and in Europe 52% of companies promoted their CFOs internally.

Percentage of Internal Hires by Country

Overall Latin America
54%
Argentina
72%
Brazil
44%
Chile
60%
Colombia
38%
Mexico
56%
Peru
69%

At an industry level, Latin America healthcare (28%) and industrial (50%) companies are the least likely to promote internal CFOs, while technology, media and communications companies (67%) are more likely to promote internally.

Percentage of Internal Hires by Industry

Consumer
59%
Financial Services
59%
Healthcare
28%
Industrial
50%
Technology, Media and Telecommunications
67%
Latin America CFOs have an average tenure of 5.2 years

The Latin American CFOs we studied have been in their current position for an average of 5.2 years. We found no difference in tenure between listed and unlisted companies. However, internally promoted CFOs have an average tenure of 5.4 years, compared to 4.7 years for external hires.

Brazil has the shortest average CFO tenure (4.0 years), while Chilean CFOs have the longest average tenure (6.5 years). Tenures within Latin America are aligned with other countries including Germany (4.1), South Africa (4.1), the United States (5.4), Spain (6.7).

At the industry level, technology, media and telecommunications (6.3 years) and healthcare (4.2 years) are the industries with the largest difference from the average CFO tenure.

Educational background

More than one-quarter (30%) of CFOs in our sample studied business administration or finance. The next most common degrees are in engineering (26%) and accounting (32%).

The most common degrees vary by country; for example, accounting is more common in Argentina (49%) and Mexico (32%), as are business administration/finance degrees in Chile (47%). More than three-quarters (78%) of CFOs received their undergraduate degrees in their country of origin.

Most CFOs (70%) have a post-graduate degree and 54% studied abroad. Of the CFOs who have a post-graduate degree, 74% received an MBA, of which 60% came from a foreign institution.

Educational Background by Country

Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru
Business Administration/
Finance

25%

31%

47%

25%

20%

31%

Economics

15%

19%

4%

15%

15%

30%

CPA/Accounting

49%

15%

12%

13%

32%

12%

Engineering

6%

28%

31%

39%

25%

24%

Other

5%

7%

5%

9%

8%

3%

Route to the top

Which functions and disciplines did CFOs spend the most time in their careers before assuming the CFO role? In Latin America, the most common background for CFOs is divisional finance (26%), followed by accounting/control (13%).

At a country level, some routes to the top stand out in particular, including divisional finance in Peru (50%) and Chile (38%), and general management in Colombia (36%). Most CFOs in Argentina and Brazil have solid backgrounds in accounting areas.

CFOs' Route to the Top

Accounting/ Control Corporate Development and Strategy Divisional Finance Financial Planning and Analysis General Management Investment Banking Public Accounting Treasury Corporate Banking Other
Argentina

23%

3%

20%

9%

3%

9%

9%

10%

1%

6%

Brazil

19%

9%

11%

8%

5%

5%

0%

4%

4%

17%

Chile

17%

8%

38%

6%

6%

3%

1%

1%

1%

9%

Colombia

4%

5%

19%

8%

36%

7%

1%

1%

1%

5%

Mexico

9%

7%

29%

6%

8%

6%

6%

3%

3%

5%

Peru

6%

0%

50%

4%

1%

1%

0%

3%

1%

11%

Latin America

13%

6%

26%

7%

9%

5%

2%

4%

2%

10%

Methodology

Spencer Stuart’s Latin America CFO Index 2019 analyzes the academic and professional backgrounds and career trajectories of CFOs serving the top companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Out of the 666 companies included in our sample there were 9 vacant positions. Overall, the index includes the background of 657 CFOs who serve the top companies, ranked by sales, according to América Economía 2019, including both listed and unlisted entities (except in Brazil, which includes listed companies only), as of the second quarter of 2019. Our first study in 2018 analyzed the backgrounds of CFOs only from listed companies.

Our research goes beyond public information. We studied each individual's background since the beginning of their careers, enabling us to identify patterns and determine the relevant experience for potential CFOs.

The country breakdown includes:

Argentina: 69 companies (21 Merval listed, 48 non-listed). The Merval is the main index of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.

Brazil: 186 listed companies. The B3 is the Brazilian Stock Exchange. All Brazilian companies are listed in three special segments — Novo Mercado, Level 2 and Level 1 of Corporate Governance Standards.

Chile: 81 companies (27 IPSA listed, 54 non-listed). The Índice de Precio Selectivo de Acciones Index (IPSA) is Chile’s main stock exchange index, consisting of the 30 most traded companies.

Colombia: 95 companies (19 Colcap listed, 76 non-listed). COLCAP is the main index of the Colombia Stock Exchange and includes the 25 most liquid stocks listed in the Bolsa de Valores de Colombia (BVC).

Mexico: 135 companies (114 IPC listed, 21 non-listed). In Mexico, the S&P/BMV índice de Precios y Cotizaciones (IPC) measures the performance of the largest and most liquid stocks listed on the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores.

Peru: 100 companies (11 Peru Select, 89 non-listed). The S&P/BVL Peru Select Index measures the performance of the largest and most liquid stocks listed in the Lima Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores de Lima S.A. or BVL).

Company Breakdown

Consumer Financial Services Education Healthcare Industrial Technology, Media and Telecommunications
Argentina

26%

17%

0%

3%

46%

7%

Brazil

17%

26%

3%

4%

46%

5%

Chile

14%

17%

0%

4%

58%

7%

Colombia

20%

11%

0%

13%

51%

6%

Mexico

27%

28%

0%

3%

32%

5%

Peru

23%

12%

0%

1%

56%

7%

Latin America

21%

20%

1%

4%

47%

6%

About the authors
  • Nicholas Schmidt

    Nicholas leads Spencer Stuart’s Financial Officer Practice in Latin America and is a member of the firm’s global Financial Services Practice. He leads the firm’s efforts in the financial services and professional services industries in Chile.

  • Fernando Aparicio

    Fernando leads Spencer Stuart’s Bogota office and conducts executive searches as a member of the firm’s Financial Services, Business & Professional Services and Industrial practices.

  • Karin Karay

    Karin is a member of Spencer Stuart’s Consumer and Retail, Apparel & Luxury Goods practices. She also leads the Private Equity, Financial Officer and Real Estate practices in Brazil.

  • Pablo Taussig
    Pablo brings 25 years of experience in financial services to Spencer Stuart. He manages the firm's Buenos Aires office and is a member of the firm’s Consumer and Financial Services practices.
  • José María Urquiza

    José brings more than three decades in the banking industry to his role in the firm’s Financial Services Practice. Based in Mexico City, he has broad experience working with clients in México, Spain and the United States.

  • Victor Vignale

    Victor leads Spencer Stuart’s Lima office and conducts a wide range of searches across the industrial, energy, technology, media and telecommunications, and financial services industries.