Speak to any CFO in any industry for any length of time and they’ll tell you they’re struggling against a skills shortage. In accountancy, businesses of all sizes are finding it hard to fill open positions. In fact, forty-two percent of hiring decision-makers say they expect both recruiting and retaining staff to be an issue over the next twelve months, according to figures from Accounting Today. A number that’s increased by seven percent since last year, making it crystal clear that firms are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people for the job. But why?
A number of factors have come together to create the ‘perfect skills storm’. Firstly, the digital transformation of the workplace has finally reached the desk of the finance team. Innovative new cloud, AI and Machine Learning solutions are now available to transform accounting processes for the better; but a lot of professionals are still playing catch-up. Secondly, the role of the CFO has and continues to evolve to be a more well-rounded, strategy setting job. And as such the demands they make on their teams are changing too. And last but not least, many organizations are shifting towards a more sustainable and ethical way of doing business; which has a dramatic impact on the way in which finance teams need to report, and what they need to report on.
Broadly speaking these macro-level trends mean that the role and skills required of a typical finance person have transformed radically over the past decade. Accountants now need to do much more than be strong in accounting, auditing, and compliance.
In order to keep pace with the changing world around them, ambitious professionals and hiring decision-makers must ensure they have a top-quality team that is able to:
Harness the latest technology
The bedrock of any modern finance team is access to and the ability to use new solutions that will help them complete their role faster, more efficiently and accurately. Understanding the value that the cloud, blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can play in helping set the pace of an agile operation is essential. Everyone must feel totally at home using the latest software, like The Adra Suite by Trintech which is focused on making the financial close process more manageable.
Call themselves a data analytics expert
The modern CFO needs a team that can analyze a bigger, broader range of data from across the business to help surface new insights and forecast the future. Business intelligence and data analytics platforms are available to help turbocharge this process, providing accountants know how to use them. This is why data science and analytics skills are so vital, with 59% of finance and accounting professionals questioned by the Business-Higher Education Forum saying they’ll be essential by 2020.
Understand the role of finance in the shift to sustainability
Finance teams have a clear role to play in the shift to sustainability, from helping to ensure that strategic investments and partnerships meet these priorities; to moving away from paper towards digital processes. Top-quality talent will understand this and be able to show how they can support through ESG reporting, taking the lead on monitoring and measuring; as well as acting as a voice of assurance.
Adapt quickly to new reporting regulations
New trends mean even more new regulations. While this shouldn’t be a shock to accountants as standards are constantly changing, it does mean they must be prepared to take on an even broader, more complex set of things to consider. ESG reporting could have dramatic implications on their specific business model, and not just in accounting, but across the business. Preparation is key.
Act as an advisor
The modern ‘strategic’ CFO needs a finance team that can support them with the latest data and insights from the business. In short, accountants have to be more than ‘bean-counters’ but also be able to act as advisors; two very different skills. It’s those who can embrace both of these worlds to become proactive agents of change and growth who will succeed.
In this new world of analysis, advice, and assurance, the ability to communicate clearly is key. Finance teams have to do a lot more than just hand over a spreadsheet or report. They must have written and oral communication skills to present complicated calculations and reports for non-finance professionals. Something which may not come naturally to those who choose to immerse themselves in numbers.
While the accountancy profession is in the midst of a job and financial security high, with such wide-spread shifts happening in the industry it would be foolish for even the most seasoned professionals to rest on their laurels. As businesses continue to look to technology, strategic insights, and stronger ethics to guarantee their long-term success, the need for multi-skilled finance experts will also grow. The most successful individuals and finance teams will be those who invest in up-skilling themselves to help their employers lead the way.