You'll hear about many CFOs as you read financial articles, but you may not have a good handle on exactly what a CFO does. If so, read on.

The chief financial officer, or CFO, is responsible, not surprisingly, for all things financial at the firm. This includes determining what the company's financial needs are and will be, how best to finance those needs, and informing all stakeholders (investors, creditors, analysts, employees, and management) of the firm's financial condition.

A CFO is also focused on creating and maintaining the best mix of internal cash, debt financing, and equity financing for the company (this is the company's "capital structure"). As part of those responsibilities, the CFO plans and oversees the forecasting and budgeting process, maintains relationships with funding sources such as commercial and investment banks, and oversees the process of developing and communicating the quarterly and annual financial statements.

Some of the many CFOs out there include PepsiCo's (NYSE:PEP) Indra Nooyi, Home Depot's (NYSE:HD) Carol Tome, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) John Connors, Procter & Gamble's (NYSE:PG) Clayton C. Daley Jr., and Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Judy Lewent.

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