There’s little sign of the talent crunch in finance slowing. The already-problematic shortage of critical skills is growing, and industry groups are reporting significant struggles to fill gaps across their memberships.
Competition for talent is soaring across all sectors, with 87% of employers saying they’re struggling to fill positions, according to a report from Monster, Flexible Future: UK Hiring Outlook 2022. HR groups have labelled the skills shortage in finance jobs a “ticking time-bomb”.
A major part of the issue is the speed at which digital processes and services are being adopted to meet demand from customers and generate efficiencies internally. Rapid advances in cloud computing and AI are happening in shorter cycles, changing the nature of the finance function and creating intense demand for the skills needed to implement and manage these technologies.
How finance jobs have changed
From pencils, calculators and Excel to cloud accounting and automated payments and reconciliations, finance systems have evolved rapidly in a short space of time. Indeed, the days of finance professionals merely needing to be good with numbers are over.
Forward-thinking CFOs, empowered by advances in AI, are remoulding their teams to become valuable components of their organisation, with an impact that goes beyond accounting. For these upgraded functions, AI analyses data to generate insights that can navigate the business through turbulence and provide strategic direction. Finance teams that focus solely on compliance and ledger updates are no longer reaching their full potential.
The typical journey to end-to-end automation often begins with the application of digital technology to reduce manual tasks within a finance function. As a result, individuals who can improve the availability and accessibility of data are in demand, and firms are particularly keen on talent that can harness data analytics and those familiar with Software-as-a-Service finance systems.
Succession planning for finance transformation
Access to premium talent is what sets the strongest financial teams apart, and while the short-term solution may be to simply pay a premium for individuals with technical skills like programming and app development, this strategy falls down at times of skills shortage and rapid sector evolution.
For this reason, succession planning in finance is high on the CFO agenda. CFOs know that abilities computers can’t easily replicate, such as creative thinking, problem-solving and negotiating, can be found within their own ranks. Alongside the right hiring strategy, upskilling current employees presents a viable path to resilience and excellence.
Carried out correctly, succession planning can become a cornerstone of practice management, ensuring talented individuals are brought through in good time, rewarded and recognised, given more involvement in decision making and exposed to a healthy organisational culture. Doing so embeds knowledge institutionally for the long term, and can cultivate a motivated team.
From flexible working arrangements to an emphasis on avoiding burnout, employers are responding with an array of perks designed to retain. Employee turnover is costly and disruptive, but it may have taken a pandemic for some businesses to truly learn that lesson.
Top finance system skills to hire for
Whether expanding or training an effective finance team, there is a key set of competencies to develop.
- Soft skills are still integral in the age of automation
Finance jobs are more data-driven and robot-assisted than before, but firms are also searching for leaders with soft skills, such as the ability to manage a remote team, critical thinking, and communication.
- Finance professionals find increasing value as high-level business partners
As the daily accounting tasks become digital, the accountant transforms into an adviser. Even while systems become automated, finance professionals still need to understand the end-to-end process, the nature and source of the organisation’s data, and the systems themselves
- Top IT professionals are in ever-increasing demand
Finance systems are steadily leaning more on data science to unearth valuable insights within the numbers, identify areas for improvements and to better manage risk. To that end, individuals with experience in cloud financial management system applications, robotic process automation, and programming of AI/machine learning algorithms are being sought to help finance teams deliver more with fewer resources.
- Of particular value are digital and data proficiencies combined with accountancy expertise
The strongest finance teams are hiring talent with data literacy, application management, data reporting and visualisation, problem-solving skills, and professional accountancy credentials such as the ICAEW, CIMA, ACCA, Chartered Accountant certificates, and CPA.
One thing is clear, as the pace of technological change accelerates, the battle for finance systems talent won’t cool off any time soon. Any sector that embraces digital processes will enter the race for tech-savvy talent, changing the dynamic for finance teams looking to attract the brightest and best as they compete against adjacent industries.
“The growth of digital business is already reshaping the talent marketplace, far beyond finance,” said Steven Ehrenhalt, global finance transformation lead at Deloitte. “As organisations seek to upgrade their workforces in all areas, they are placing a premium on people with relationship and analytical skills, who can also understand the business.”
A combination of more informed succession planning, smarter talent acquisition and recruitment strategies, and progressive employee retention strategies is how successful finance teams will build thriving teams, effective functions, and drive success in the coming years.