Accountancy skills in demand: 2018
At Reed Business School we have a heritage of training some of the best accountants in the country. For us, many of the basic skills that make a good accountant […]
At Reed Business School we have a heritage of training some of the best accountants in the country. For us, many of the basic skills that make a good accountant – the kind of thing you study for in your exams – will never change. But in the evolving world of business, and the practical application of those skills, of course there’s going to be a shift, and savvy accountants with their eyes on working their way up the ladder should start taking a closer look at each rung.
As automation of basic business process becomes ever-more prominent, skilled professionals must find ways to demonstrate their importance and ability to work with new technology. Senior managers at firms and in-house are becoming more discerning about the skills they desire, and ability on paper (exam success) is only half the story.
Embracing new Technology
Today, hiring managers are seeking finance professionals who are up to date with smart technologies, leveraging solutions such as cloud-enabled ERP systems. Many CFOs are now key players in driving adoption of these technologies: recent research from EY found that 58% of CFOs believe combining state of the art technology with process improvement is crucial.
As blockchain technology grows in prevalence, businesses will increasingly seek candidates with experience within companies who are harnessing the power of blockchain-based transactions – and people who know how these should be recorded and recognised in financial statements. Ambitious accountants should already be expanding their knowledge to include an understanding of at least the principle features and functions of blockchain, so that when making their next career move, they’re not pipped to the post by someone who has.
One word we’re starting to hear a lot more of from our clients in regard to trainee accountants is “adaptability” – particularly in relation to professionals who can multi-task as they guide high-potential businesses towards profitability. In this type of role, you may be pulling together reports and presenting to secure investment from private equity houses one minute, and signing off on a marketing strategy the next.
When it comes to more senior roles, those who have spent time outside the finance function, such as in marketing or operations, are becoming increasingly sought after by companies which value skills that a traditional accountancy degree and a linear career path wouldn’t necessarily provide. According to data from McKinsey, 31% of CFOs hired since 2009 have such experience, up from 17% of those hired prior to 2009.
Financial planning and analysis
We’re also starting to see an increase in emphasis on financial planning and analysis, as organisations seek to step-up general FP&A reporting. This is likely to be in response to companies wanting to arm themselves against future uncertainty, not least Brexit, by collating robust data to inform long-term financial strategy. Those who are able to provide detailed financial analysis and financial modelling are particularly sought after, as are those with solid experience of designing and creating revenue generation and job costing reporting systems. If you can prove measurable ROI on projects to improve efficiency and performance you’re on to a winner.
While technology is simplifying and automating many aspects of accounting, there are some things that most definitely require a more personal or creative approach. Accounting professionals can prove their worth by finding innovative ways in applying data to achieve growth, particularly in sectors with frequent disruptions that require dramatic changes in resource allocation.
Similarly, professionals with superior communication skills are also in high demand. Contrary to long-held stereotypes, today’s in-house accountants must have the ability, and charisma, to engage with stakeholders both inside and outside of the business.
Technology is doing more of the grunt work in finance – and the remit of an in-house accountant is changing exponentially in response. Finance professionals are metamorphosing from straight number crunchers to strategic advisers – and those looking for their next role must recognise that expectations are shifting. We advise asking questions – finding out what others are doing and what’s being successful. Speak to your managers and volunteer yourself for more strategic projects. If nothing else, those that really get stuck in will see their career prospects flourish.