The world is changing fast and finance functions must adapt quickly. Economic uncertainty and market volatility have prompted organisations to pay close attention to their accounting and strategic finance functions.
Many finance teams have an overwhelming number of tasks and requirements to make sure they are in line with regulations while meeting the day-to-day requirements of running the organisation.
The finance function must therefore make changes to ramp up performance and reduce costs, as essential tasks such as payroll, reporting, balancing accounts, and budgeting take precedence over business growth, financial planning, innovation, and strategy.
Cloud technology has become essential for CFOs and other financial managers as they strive to improve their financial systems; areas such as revenue management, cash disbursements and accounting operations can all be automated using the Cloud.
Keeping up with the pace of digital transformation is a top priority for finance leaders as technology quickly changes the traditional finance function. In the face of such an accelerated shift towards automation and digitisation, do finance teams have the right skills and competencies to adapt? Or are there any skills gaps that must be addressed if future finance teams are to succeed?
In this article we look at the top skills needed in the finance function to navigate the future of digital finance, and how finance leaders can take steps today to nurture the skillset growth of their finance team.
Vital skills for every finance team
Hard skills in finance
Accounts delivery is centred on a set of key attributes that include maintaining relationships with clients and meeting with directors to discuss business strategy and monitor business growth. This area also requires an in-depth knowledge of the market along with excellent communication skills, making effective account management crucial.
Audit project management
The ability to effectively project manage an audit is vital for your company; it requires attention to detail and great organisational skills. Having experience in audit project management gives a good technical grounding in corporate finance delivery. Competence in these types of audits is critical since they assess whether a business has met agreed-upon, measurable goals and objectives.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) require in-depth knowledge of both strategy and analysis, as well as attention to detail - in addition to knowing all the legal and administrative considerations. It is a detailed process that requires a professional approach.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the UK's financial regulatory body, which operates independently from the UK government. Having a finance team stay on top of the regulation changes that are on the horizon, protects your company from financial instability and economic losses. Keeping up with current regulations and legislation requirements is vital because new rules are constantly being introduced and can have a ripple effect on an organisation's operations.
Among your team members, commercial awareness extends far beyond basic financial and economic awareness. It is crucial to know the market that your company operates in in order to accurately price and execute commercial projects, ones that cover costs and yield a positive return.
Soft skills in finance
Ability to communicate effectively
In today's world, any perception that the role of finance is limited to just crunching numbers has been replaced by the reality that most finance professionals now have daily interactions with cross-department employees, influence decision-making for CEOs and build successful relationships with suppliers and customers alike. So, although having the ability to effectively communicate your ideas in writing and verbally is crucial, you must also be able to explain financial jargon in plain language.
Storytelling through data
To make a real difference, finance professionals must be able to disseminate findings and financial information across the business. This means that they must now present information in a succinct way that is easy to digest by audiences who are not as numbers-savvy. Having the ability to pull out only the most relevant data and explain what that means for different areas of the business is a desirable but rare skill. Remember, if you can't justify and explain your calculations, your aptitude for number crunching won't get you far in finance today.
It's a common misconception that roles focused on data and numbers require a detached approach – empathy should never be undervalued in finance. Taking the time to pick up and identify mental health and wellbeing is now more important than ever. By displaying understanding, finance professionals will also build trust in their relationships with co-workers and clients.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is a transferable skill highly prized at every level, in every organisation and in every industry. Today, more decisions are being driven by data, so knowing where to look for information and what to look at - with absolute accuracy - is crucial for success across all businesses.
It is common for CEOs and clients to turn to financial professionals to provide a rational evaluation of a scenario - whether it be an overview of financial reporting on business performance or a cash flow analysis. In fast-paced business environments, a poorly thought-out decision can cost a company time and money, so having the ability to make critically-informed choices is crucial for modern finance professionals.
Digital skills in finance
Awareness and knowledge of technology
Digital processes are replacing traditional manual processes, which means finance teams need to be knowledgeable about technology. The emergence of sophisticated automation tools - including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Robotic Process Automation (RPO) - is profoundly changing how finance operates. By replacing time-consuming, manual tasks with automated and efficient processes, they help finance teams deliver higher-value output.
Problem solving through analytics
Despite careful planning and forecasting, business landscapes can change unexpectedly - as demonstrated throughout the pandemic. The ability to solve problems, respond and adapt to change will continue to be a crucial skill for companies to prosper.
To gather insights across departments, finance professionals need analytical skills to identify trends and key findings tucked away in large amounts of data. Having a centralised view of all data and performance in the Cloud means finance can conduct informed decision making and provide advice at every stage of the process. Therefore, finance professionals must understand how to use data in real-time to come up with innovative solutions to problems and demonstrate resilience to future challenges through a sustainable strategy.
In today's business world, finance is more than a back-office function. Finance leaders must step up their digital skills to define the company's overall strategy and supply financial reports and analysis to enable CEOs to make informed decisions about growth. They must also have the leadership skills necessary to create a finance team that meets business demand. By embedding a culture of growth through adoption of digital transformation and Cloud technology, finance leaders can encourage team members to engage in strategic initiatives that will propel the finance function forward.
Collaboration throughout the business
Finance leaders must understand the day-to-day operations of each department in the business. Digitising processes through technology can benefit other functions, as well as boost overall output and performance. As advisors to department heads, finance leaders can ensure that teams are aligned with the central strategy and contribute most effectively to business growth. This collaboration allows them to measure the overall performance of each team and assess the wider impact of the work.
Developing the finance team’s skillset
As finance skills become more advanced over time, they must be nurtured. One of the cornerstones of preventing future skills shortages is to upskill your team. Sharing niche skills and experiences with the rest of the team will create a flexible and adaptable finance function that can meet the evolving needs of the company.
Depending on the situation, hiring external employees may be the best approach when skills shortages arise. However, upskilling employees is always an important strategy to ensure long-term retention of top talent.
Rather than predicting the skills needed for the future, finance leaders need to identify the skills that will be needed today. Their best course of action is to improve their ability to respond quickly to urgent skills requirements.
To bridge the digital skill gap, finance managers can take the following steps
- Identify new, job-relevant skills that enable finance employees to perform their jobs more efficiently or effectively
- Have a skill-sensing approach so that finance professionals can apply newly learned digital skills on the job and close the gap
- Prioritise newly “sensed” skills if they better address the finance function’s imminent needs and employees can develop them at the time of need
- Offer mentoring and coaching opportunities so that finance team members can learn vital stakeholder management skills from senior colleague by getting involved in day-to-day decision making
- Move finance team members into different business units to equip them with a greater understanding of business operations, recognise specific challenges and identify opportunities for improving existing processes
- Encourage finance team members to complete globally recognised accreditations such as ACCA, CIMA, CISI, CPA, CA, CFP to help develop your skill set and level of expertise
- Make a conscious effort to improve your soft skills every day – remember, they're attributes to develop, not innate qualities
- Enrol in courses designed to build soft skills i.e., people management, storytelling through data etc.
- Provide help and feedback and use developed skill sets to set goals and objectives
Develop your finance teams' skills today
In the same way that a CFO sets the course for finance, an optimally run and managed finance department can drive your business to new heights of success through improvements in skillsets, efficiency, financial performance, and competitive advantage thanks to Cloud technology adoption.
Accounting and Financial Management Software can help your finance team excel their digital skills through training and consulting of the platform and help them reach the potential to become a strategic and value-driven powerhouse for your business.
Get in touch with our team today to find out more.