The CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner

Program Overview

Today, financial rigor and strategic insight must be tightly linked, since strategic financial leadership is in high demand. Increasingly, CFOs are being called upon not only to drive cost efficiencies but also to identify profitable sources of revenue growth. They work closely with CEOs to creatively design future growth opportunities. Successful CFO leadership requires a deeper understanding of strategy, increased leadership skills, and an ability to effectively communicate financial acumen and knowledge to nonfinancial colleagues. In The CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner, you will not only learn and adopt those critical skills, but also use them to elevate your leadership role.

Program Experience

Program Highlights & Benefits

In The CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner, you will:

  • Expand your leadership skills and increase your capacity as a trusted advisor
  • Develop more effective operational strategies for building value in and managing operational risk throughout your organization
  • Manage risk and uncertainty
  • Leverage a suite of tools to identify and drive profitable sources of revenue growth
  • Think creatively and design opportunities to position your company for the future

Experience & Impact

Increasingly, CFOs are expected to be more strategic decision makers in the business, as noted by the growing trend of promoting chief financial officers to the CEO role, which has occurred in recent years at companies like UPS, PepsiCo, and Siemens AG in recent years.

The program elevates the CFO role to one of a “value integrator,” a term coined by IBM in its Global CEO Study to describe the best-performing CFOs. These leaders excel at taking highly unstructured and somewhat ambiguous situations and putting structure around them by integrating information from numerous internal sources. You will enhance your ability to forecast, measure, and monitor business performance; manage risk; and generate predictive insights.

Wharton faculty apply their field-based research and the latest strategic insights to help you broaden your perspective on how to make your organization more competitive.

The program offers a strategic toolbox to help you be a better advisor to and decision maker for your company. Wharton creates a live lab where you and your peers, also seasoned CFOs, learn from real-life case examples and apply frameworks to different situations that go beyond the profit and loss statement — enabling you to drive strategic investments for the future. You will leave the program better equipped to handle internal and external pressures, including the growing role of activist shareholders.

In sum, this program enables you to focus more externally on the fast-paced changes that are redefining your business and be viewed as key member of the executive leadership team.

Session topics include:

  • Link Between Corporate Strategy and Value Creation
    • Driving Organic Growth
    • Measuring Performance
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creating and Sustaining Competitive Advantage
  • Strategy Audit and Connected Strategy
  • Managing Flexibility Using Real Options
  • Strategic Persuasion
  • Designing the Corporate Portfolio

Through highly interactive lectures, exercises, and case studies, both in the classroom and in smaller work groups, this deep dive into strategy will examine how CFOs have created competitive advantage in a global context.

Overall, you will learn how to:

  • Enhance your strategic thinking skills outside traditional areas such as accounting and finance
  • Bolster your leadership skills to better communicate with nonfinancial colleagues
  • Be a better decision maker who can assess disparate data from many areas of your company and help the CEO, board, and other leaders create a long-term path forward

Who Should Attend

The CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner is designed for senior financial executives responsible for developing and implementing strategy as part of their leadership roles. Participants may include chief financial officers, vice presidents, controllers, and other senior financial executives with strategic and financial responsibilities.

Participants in this program are a diverse group of finance leaders from varied industries, backgrounds, and geographies who share their biggest challenges with the class. Faculty tailor the program content to address these issues, so participants enjoy a learning experience that truly resonates with them and meets their learning needs.

Participants leave the program with an expanded peer network, plus specific tools and frameworks they can use to make a meaningful strategic impact within their companies or organizations.

Fluency in English, written and spoken, is required for participation in Wharton Executive Education programs unless otherwise indicated.

Participant Profile

Participants by Industry

The CFO participants by industry

Participants by Job Function

The CFO participants by job function

Participants by Region

The CFO participants by region

Group Enrollment

To further leverage the value and impact of this program, we encourage companies to send cross-functional teams of executives to Wharton. We offer group enrollment benefits to companies sending four or more participants.


David Wessels

David Wessels, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Academic Director

Adjunct Professor of Finance, The Wharton School

Emilie Feldman

Emilie Feldman, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Associate Professor of Management, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Corporate governance, corporate strategy, diversification, divestitures, firm scope, spinoffs

Itay Goldstein

Itay Goldstein, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Joel S. Ehrenkranz Family Professor; Professor of Finance; Professor of Economics; Coordinator of PhD Program, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Corporate finance, financial fragility and crises, financial markets

Nicolaj Siggelkow

Nicolaj Siggelkow, PhDSee Faculty Bio

David M. Knott Professor; Professor of Management; Co-Director, Mack Institute for Innovation Management, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Competitive strategy, firms as systems of interconnected choices


Since I work in the public/nonprofit sectors, there are few resources for professional development. As such, I was attracted to the opportunity to take advantage of Wharton’s Lifelong Learning benefit for Wharton alumni, in particular this CFO program, since it is so tailored to my work.

I thought the program was good, very well organized and well carried out. I had actually studied with David Wessels, who heads up the program, during my Wharton MBA. He’s a very good professor and I also enjoyed talking to him on the side. The course incorporated real-world information that went beyond just building a model. It provided knowledge that was really helpful for people actually responsible for the function or the organization, such as human resource considerations and how to create a well-run finance division. I thought it did a good job of that.

One of the best things was being able to meet CFOs from around the world in different industries. You find out that even though they might be doing banking in Nigeria as opposed to a nonprofit in California, you actually have similar concerns. Breaking out into teams and working through the cases together enabled opportunities to learn from each other. And I really appreciated the use of real case examples around what drives company growth, and how you make trade-offs.

When you're just running around day-to-day trying to keep an organization going, it's hard to step back and think about how to be strategic. So sometimes just literally taking the time to do it, like through this course, serves as a reminder that you should try to think strategically more often.

As a Wharton MBA, it was great to be back on campus. I think that encouraging Wharton alums to do these programs is a really nice gesture by the school. It ties you back and engages you with the university, and it’s good for people to have that opportunity to reconnect.”

Emily SchwarzAssistant Dean & Chief Financial Officer, UC Berkeley School of Public Health

The CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner was fantastic — from the instructors, to the material, to all the folks participating from various walks of industry life and from many countries. I was completely wowed. The faculty was second to none. In addition to the excellent teaching and case studies, the professors had a great ability to encourage discussion. You felt that the instructors, as well as the class, were very approachable, and there was an open flow of communication, creativity, and exchange of ideas. That really made it more than just an instructional program. There were a lot of leaders from different industries offering insights that case studies don’t necessarily cover. It really completed my understanding.

After the course, I brought back to my own team at work the kind of out-of-the-box thinking and open style of discussion that we were trained in at Wharton. As a result, I and my team have more productive meetings, even when there’s a limited time frame.

After having the CFO program experience, I’d definitely go back to Wharton for other classes, and would also recommend Wharton to others. Some other Ivy League programs may be capturing theories, but Wharton has the skill of really putting the thought and the theory into practice."

Leonard ClappCFO, Chief Compliance Officer, NASW Risk Retention Group, NASW Insurance Company

As finance director at Tenneco, I oversee the financials for our sealing and gaskets product line. I have the full scope of responsibility for both the P&L and the balance sheet. I found the Wharton CFO course through my supervisor, who had taken it a few years earlier and strongly recommended it. I had been looking for something to help me approach finance in a more strategic way.

I thought the program was very good. The combination of lecture and group work allowed you to learn something and then go and immediately apply it. In some of the breakout sessions we talked about applying the lessons in our current positions or at our companies, which was helpful.

I particularly appreciated the section about strategic evaluations and considering different options. It combined traditional financial metrics with looking more at strategy: thinking about where you compete in different markets and how that influences your market share and ultimate financial success.

The faculty was very engaging and dynamic. They did a good job of making the course interactive. And networking with other participants is always a good thing. I found working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, in various industries, very valuable. It was also helpful to me that there were a couple of people from manufacturing as I was. Overall, I would highly recommend the course.”

Jennifer MossFinance Director, Tenneco

Date, Location, & Fees

October 28 – November 1, 2019Philadelphia, PA$13,250

May 11 – 15, 2020Philadelphia, PA$13,650

Download the program schedule, including session details.

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Hotel Information

Fees for this program includes accommodations and meals. Prices are subject to change.

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