Whats the difference between an FD and a CFO?

The terms Finance Director (FD) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) are often used interchangeably in many organizations, especially in different geographical regions, but they can denote distinct roles with varying responsibilities depending on the company’s structure, size, and operational context. Understanding the differences between an FD and a CFO is essential for companies looking to fill these critical financial leadership positions. Here’s a breakdown of the key distinctions:

Scope of Responsibility

  • Finance Director (FD): Traditionally, the FD’s role is more narrowly focused on the management of a company’s finances. This includes responsibilities such as financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and managing financial risks. The FD ensures that the company’s financial operations are running efficiently and effectively, often with a focus on the UK or specific regional operations if the company is larger.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): The CFO typically has a broader strategic role that extends beyond the finance department to contribute to the overall strategy of the company. While the CFO oversees the areas managed by the FD, they also play a key role in strategic planning, investment decisions, financial strategy development, and stakeholder management. In larger organizations, the CFO may also be involved in external relations, such as negotiations with banks, investors, and other financial institutions.

Strategic Involvement

  • FD: Finance Directors are primarily concerned with the control and management of the company’s finances, ensuring compliance, and improving efficiencies within the finance department. They might not always be involved in broader strategic discussions beyond the financial scope.
  • CFO: Chief Financial Officers are often part of the senior executive team and contribute to high-level strategic decision-making that affects the entire organization. They are involved in setting the company’s strategic goals, developing and executing financial strategy to support these goals, and often have a direct line of communication with the CEO and the board.

Hierarchical Position

  • In some organizations, especially larger ones or those operating in the US, the CFO ranks higher than the FD and may even be the FD’s direct superior. In this structure, the CFO is responsible for the broader financial and strategic direction of the company, while the FD focuses on the day-to-day financial operations and management.
  • In other contexts, particularly in the UK and smaller companies, the terms CFO and FD might be used to describe essentially the same role, with the title depending on tradition, preference, or the perceived prestige of one title over the other.

Global vs. Local Focus

  • CFOs often have a global perspective, especially in multinational corporations, where they oversee financial strategy across different countries and markets. They work on securing funding, managing global financial risks, and ensuring global regulatory compliance.
  • FDs, on the other hand, might have a more localized focus, dealing with the financial management within a specific country or region, though this can vary significantly with the size and scope of the business.

As of April 2023, salary ranges for Finance Directors (FDs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) in London can vary widely depending on several factors, including the size and sector of the company, the specific responsibilities of the role, and the individual’s experience and qualifications. London, being a major global financial hub, tends to offer higher salaries for senior financial roles compared to other regions, reflecting the city’s cost of living and the competitive market for top talent. Here’s a general overview of what you might expect:

Finance Director (FD) Salaries

  • Smaller Companies and Startups: In smaller businesses or startups, FDs can expect salaries starting from £80,000 to £120,000 per year. These roles may require hands-on involvement in all aspects of the company’s finances and possibly a broader scope of responsibilities beyond traditional finance.
  • Mid-sized to Large Companies: For FDs in mid-sized companies or larger enterprises, salaries typically range from £120,000 to £200,000 annually. The higher end of this range usually applies to FDs with significant experience and those working in industries with higher salary benchmarks, such as finance and technology.
  • Sector Influence: It’s important to note that specific sectors can influence salary expectations. For example, FDs in financial services, technology, and pharmaceuticals may command higher salaries due to the complexity of the financial landscape in these industries.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Salaries

  • Broader Range: CFOs generally command higher salaries than FDs, reflecting their more strategic role and the greater breadth of responsibilities. Salaries for CFOs in London can range widely from £150,000 to well over £300,000 annually, with top earners in large multinational corporations or high-growth sectors potentially earning significantly more, especially with bonuses, stock options, and other incentives factored in.
  • Company Size and Stage: For startups and growth-stage companies, CFO salaries might be on the lower end of the scale or include equity participation to compensate for lower base salaries. In contrast, established multinational firms offer higher salaries and comprehensive benefits packages to attract experienced CFOs.
  • Additional Compensation: For both FDs and CFOs, total compensation often includes performance-related bonuses, stock options (particularly in publicly traded and high-growth companies), pension contributions, and other benefits, which can substantially increase the total remuneration package.


While these figures provide a general guide, actual salaries can vary significantly. Trends in the market, such as the impact of economic conditions, digital transformation, and the increasing importance of sustainability and ESG factors, continue to influence the demand for skilled FDs and CFOs, potentially affecting salary levels and structures. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, it’s advisable to consult recent salary surveys conducted by recruitment agencies specializing in finance roles, or to engage directly with professional networks and industry associations in London.


The distinction between an FD and a CFO can vary widely among organizations. In smaller companies or those outside the US, the roles may overlap significantly or be regarded as identical, with the title chosen based on tradition or preference. In larger or multinational corporations, the CFO often has a broader, more strategic role, while the FD focuses on managing the company’s finances. Regardless of the title, both roles are crucial for the financial health and strategic direction of an organization.   To find the perfect FD or CFO for your business reach out to FD Capital today.

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