New world, new skills finance professionals need

Even before the pandemic, digital transformation and new ways of working were significantly influencing the skills and capabilities finance teams need. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated that need as people and businesses sought digital experiences and solutions more than ever.

Based on conversations I had with CFOs worldwide, I shared insights listen here via podcast. They told me the skills and competencies finance teams must develop to adequately support the business in today’s world. Still as relevant now as they were a few months ago, these skills include:

Knowledge of transformative technology

We’ve all had a crash course in working side by side with technologies over the past year. As our organization’s data has moved to the cloud and month-end closes have become automated, finance has had to get familiar with technologies such as robotic process automation, blockchain and data analytics applications.

Organizations have fast-tracked digital transformations to protect and serve customers in many ways and adapt to new business models.

Building skills to support this rapid transformation and being able to use technologies will put you in a great position. Our free Digital Mindset Pack offers members a chance to take a deeper dive into technologies such as robotic process automation and data analytics.

Comfort with analyzing and presenting data

If working side by side with technology is important, the ability to use the tools and data at your disposal to affect decisions is even more critical.

“We need to be able to tell the story in a more convincing and succinct way,” the finance leader of a Fortune 500 manufacturing services company told me recently. After he grappled with how to make strides in digital finance transformation, he spent time with his business and finance team to effectively change management reporting from thousands of pages of information to a set of dashboards.

The change was challenging because it forced a new way of working as well as a new way of thinking ­— not only in terms of the generation of data but also in the ability to present data in a meaningful way.

The Association (AICPA® and CIMA®) offers several resources to help finance and accounting professionals grow their data analytics skills. Some of these include our data analytics certificate programs articles and podcasts and an interactive data analytics quiz to test your skills.

Ability to communication and think critically

Never underestimate the power of effective storytelling. You can uncover the best insights, but if your audience doesn’t understand your point, it’s moot.

Strong communication and critical-thinking skills — the ability to ask the right questions and to guide good and considered decision-making — are invaluable skills for finance professionals. If the ability to leverage technology and a deep understanding of the business support these skills, you have a powerful combination to lead your business.

Programs such as the CGMA® Finance Leadership Program help develop these co-piloting competencies. The program’s online, personalized learning experience helps finance professionals develop the necessary digital, technical, business, leadership and people skills. Our Agile Finance white paper and webcast series also provide ideas on how to reimagine your business and upskill your finance team for the digital era.

A mastery of the basics

In a FM magazine interview, the CFO of GSK, Iain Mackay, talked about “getting the basics right.”

He explained, “It’s about finance doing what its core responsibilities are really well, consistently and sustainably in very difficult operating circumstances. It’s about the finance team being able to contribute flawlessly to the overall continuity.”

This mastery of technical skills is essential to ensure upskilling in the latest technical accounting and finance areas. We may need to unlearn and relearn some of the concepts we studied many years ago.

Prime candidates for this are approaches to risk management and scenario planning, which have been turned on their heads over the last few months. Look to our COVID-19 resource center to help you remain current in these areas.

Ability to be agile and unlearn what you know

This is the most important skill of them all.

“Agility is about how flexible we can make an organization, a process or even an individual,” said a CFO of a global gas manufacturer and supplier. And pace, which is about “how quickly we can remove constraints and adjust processes to create impact.”

To support this mindset, we need to embrace continuous learning to help us adapt better to our ever-evolving work world and enable us to take future opportunities.

For example, McKinsey & Company offers six steps to reskilling and shares strategies to building a “no-regrets” skill set — a useful toolkit no matter how an employee’s specific role may evolve. Also, take a look at the CGMA Competency Framework to help guide a structured conversation on learning with your staff or your manager and build a no-regrets toolkit of your own.

Key questions to consider

As you reflect on these skills, consider these questions to discuss with your teams and your leaders:

How has the pandemic changed your thinking on how you develop yourself and your people? What critical competencies do you require to meet your business priorities now and in the future? How do you align roles and ways of working to these critical competencies? How can you engage your colleagues in initial conversations to validate your understanding?

Learn more about the skills and competencies senior finance professionals need now to thrive.  Seasoned CFOs from across the country will provide the latest innovation and anticipated trends to keep you on the cutting edge at the AICPA & CIMA CFO Conference.  This all-online conference, May 5-7, brings together the profession’s leaders to share best practices and the latest insights to help you guide your teams.

Barry Payne, Director, External Relations — Management Accountant, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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