CPFO Spotlight: Kurt Beal

Kurt Beal, CPA, CPFO, is finance director for the City of Conover, North Carolina.

Photo of Kurt Beal.

Why did you want to become a CPFO?

Once I completed my state credential (CLGFO) exams in January of 2023 I was hungry for more knowledge. Government finance is actually a very broad discipline and I find it fascinating. It’s far more than just knowing accounting. I looked around and soon learned that the top government-finance credential out there was the CPFO sponsored by GFOA. I read testimonials and reviews across the internet on how difficult the exams are, and the level of dedication required to commit to the process. These reviews were not misguided. There is a reason that when compared to the number of government finance jobs there are in the country, the number of CPFOs is extremely low and that further motivated me to achieve this goal. I spent several days just reading and studying the candidate guide before I decided to embark upon the journey.

What did you learn going through the process?

This is a grueling process. For me it took about 11 months to pass all 7 parts – which is about the same amount of time I had dedicated to passing the CPA exams. The exams not only test your technical skills but your personal level of commitment to the process.  The benefits far outweigh the costs of exam and study materials. This is a serious credential that is not taken lightly by anyone who has pursued this endeavor.  The process is not easy nor is it meant to be.  It requires dedication, motivation, and discipline.  There are no shortcuts.  You can try to memorize practice questions, but the breadth of material is so expansive it won’t do you any good and ultimately you will only be cheating yourself.  Read all the suggested study materials and make sure you learn the information, not just memorize it. 

How has becoming a CPFO made an impact on you in your profession or how do you hope it will make an impact?

The knowledge journey of becoming a CPFO, while primarily geared toward the enhancement and reinforcement of technical skills and knowledge also served as a wonderful refresher and reminder of the importance of soft skills that are critical to the role of a CFO in every organization.  Things like the importance of ethics, integrity, effective communication, strategic planning, organizational behavior, equity, equality, and leadership. This has helped me become a better supervisor to a terrific group of team members and work well across departments in the organization and with elected officials.  Further, the material covered is not exclusive to accounting or finance.  The sections on risk, compensation, and procurement are crucial to success as a CFO.  The sections truly reach across departments and cover graduate level business and public administration topics that are vital to organizational success.  Finance does not live in a vacuum but serves to ensure organizational longevity and achievement.  Understanding these concepts helps ensure organizational resources are properly prioritized and that public funds are being used effectively. 

What would you say to others thinking about becoming a CPFO?

Do it; but only if you’re in it for the right reasons. You’ve got to make a study schedule and adhere to it.  Once you’ve prepared, applied yourself and spent time truly learning the materials then the tests will be enjoyable.  At the completion of the process, you will be able to look back and feel accomplished and proud that you have proven to yourself how well you know the material and you will become a better and more valuable asset to your team, organization and community for it. 

Want to learn more about becoming a CPFO?

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