For decades, the CEO role has been at the leadership vanguard, often demanding a broad range of skills and experiences acquired over years of experience. However, with the shifts in the CFO role over the last few years, there’s a compelling argument that finance leaders have developed the necessary skill set to move from CFO to CEO.   

After all, CFOs have become much more than number crunchers. They analyse complex data to identify trends, assess risks, and develop growth plans to ensure the organisation’s long-term sustainable financial health. They’re strategic thinkers who often bring digital transformation to the table, providing solutions that will allow the company to reach higher ground.  

Research from Russell Reynolds Associates showed that, in 2022, 33% of S&P 500 CFOs who changed jobs became CEOs, compared to 8.8% in 2021. But the shift has been happening for a while, often resulting in great success for the organisation. Take PepsiCo for instance. In 1994, when Indra Nooyi joined the North American beverage giant, its sole focus was producing carbonated drinks that could rival its competitors.  

Nooyi joined as Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development and changed the organisation’s direction, changing its long-term strategic vision. Seven years after that, she would rise to the role of CFO, which would shape the company’s financial performance and growth. In 2006, after Steven Reinemund stepped down from the CEO role, Indra took the position considering her past achievements at the organisation and her vast experience in leadership roles, especially the ones focused on strategy.  

Whilst Indra Nooyi’s shift from CFO to CEO is one of the most notable ones in corporate history, there are more successful stories of CFOs who have made the transition to CEO. Their strategic vision, operational efficiency, and, in some cases, crisis management have been key elements for the Finance leaders’ insight to become increasingly recognised as a valuable asset in the CEO role and why this trend is likely to continue.  

Read the stories of 7 CFOs who became CEOs at major companies such as Oracle, Deutsche Bank and Hertz. 

CFO to CEO: 7 Stories of Strategic Leadership

Safra Catz, CEO at Oracle

Safra Catz had been an executive at Oracle since April 1999, becoming a board member in 2001 and its president in 2004. A decade later, in April 2011, she was named co-president of the organisation and CFO. At the time, Catz reported to Larry Ellison, one of the company’s founders.   

In September 0214, Ellison stepped down, and Catz was appointed as co-CEO alongside Mark Hurd. After Hurd’s passing in 2015, the company named Safra the sole CEO of Oracle. Fortune has considered her one of the most powerful women in business, and she has been an influential member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company since 2018. 

Shou Zi Chew, CEO at TikTok

Chew started his career at Goldman Sachs in London, where he worked as a banker for two years. He then worked in venture capital firms such as DST Global and led investments in companies like and Xiaomi. He joined the latter as the CFO in 2015.  

In March 2021, he started as the CFO of ByteDance, the Chinese tech company that developed TikTok (and its Chinese counterpart, Douyin). After Kevin Mayer, CEO for only a few short months, quit the company, Chew took over as CEO after the interim global head of the company, General Manager Vanessa Pappas. 

Indra Nooyi, Former-CEO at PepsiCo

One of the most well-known transitions from CFO to CEO is probably Indra Nooyi’s. Fortune ranked her the second most powerful woman in the world twice. Nooyi was the CEO of PepsiCo, but she also serves on the boards of Amazon and the International Cricket Council.  

Indra began her career in her home country, India, as a product manager at Mettur Beardsell and later at Johnson & Johnson. Her resume also features positions at BCG and Motorola. In 1994, she joined PepsiCo as the Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning. She gained her seat as CFO in 2000 and, after her predecessor Steven Reinemund retired, assumed the role of CEO in 2006, becoming chairman of the board the year after that.  

 During her 12 years as CEO, Indra Nooyi became known for being the first woman to lead the soft drink and snacks giant and adjusting the business to the higher demand for healthier eating. Under her leadership, the organisation reduced its carbon footprint using renewable energies. 

James von Moltke, Deutsche Bank

James Moltke has over 30 years of experience in banking. He started his career at Credit Suisse First Boston in London in 1992. He worked for Citigroup for 8 years before joining the Management Board as a CFO at Deutsche Bank in 2017.  

He’s been the bank’s president since March 2022 while retaining his job as the CFO, taking on a broader leadership role within the company. He is also responsible for Asset Management since 2023.  

James Gorman, Former-CEO of Morgan Stanley

Gorman started his career in 1982 in a law firm in Melbourne, Australia, his hometown. Soon after, he moved to the US to get his Business Administration master’s at Colombia Business School. Before joining Morgan Stanley in 2006, Gorman was a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. and held multiple executive positions at Merrill Lynch. 

He started at Morgan Stanley as the President and COO of the Global Wealth Management Group. In 2007, he was named Co-President of Morgan Stanley and was responsible for Wealth Management and Asset Management. This happened during the 2008 crisis when Gorman played a crucial role in navigating the bank through this turbulent time by raising capital and making strategic acquisitions. He was announced as the new CEO in January 2010, having taken the position two years after John J. Mack retired.  

Bloomberg named him one of the 50 most influential people in the world. He has also served as a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Co-Chairman of the Business Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He retired as CEO in January 2024, maintaining his executive chairman seat on the firm’s board. 

Stephen M. Scheer, CEO at Hertz

Scheer started his career in Finance in 1993 as part of the Financial Institutions Group at Goldman Sachs. He has had different strategic and operational leadership roles, having been the CFO since 2018. He held this position when Goldman Sachs launched AppleCard with Apple in 2019.   

After almost 30 years at the organisation, Scheer took on the role as CEO of Hertz in February 2022, where he also retains a seat at the company’s Board of Directors. Aside from his corporate ventures, Scheer also serves on the Jewish Museum and the New York Stem Cell Foundation boards and is a member of the Business Roundtable, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. 

Carlos Torres Vila, Former-CEO at BBVA

Torres Vila was the CEO of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) from 2015 to 2018. He started his career at McKinsey & Co. as a consultant after obtaining degrees in electrical engineering and business at MIT and became a partner at McKinsey in 1997.  

He was then recruited as the director of strategy and corporate development at the Spanish electric utility company Endesa, where he later became the CFO. He joined BBVA in 2008 as the Head of Strategy & Corporate Development and an executive committee member before being promoted to CEO in 2015.  

After leaving the position, Vila retained his chair seat, which he still holds. He’s also a member of the Institute of International Finance’s Board of Directors.