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As technology makes certain finance functions redundant, existing roles are evolving from a traditional reporting focus and towards teams embracing their future as business advisors. “Tomorrow’s finance talent are people who really understand it all: technology, data, automation – and the storytelling to explain it,” explains Michael Page’s César Gautier.
In this article Michael Page presents six trends for finance professionals in Sweden over the next three years – the drivers and candidate ‘hacks’ that can help transform your potential into tomorrow’s must-have talent.
What should finance professionals look for in a company – and how can you ensure you navigate through the coming wave of automation?
While there may be fewer opportunities for the traditional debits-and-credits accountant, blending traditional knowledge with insight-driven skills is a great way to embody the future of Finance. “You can have an accounting degree, but you’ve got to supplement it with programming, data analytics, visualisation or statistical programming,” advises Eugene Low of Experian.
As César Gautier of Michael Page explains, “The key to finance is developing the digital and tech capabilities that will allow you to grow. If you build both as key strengths and demonstrate them as part of your experience, hiring managers will notice. And highlighting your softer skills never goes amiss, it shows you can be an excellent business partner,” he notes.
The ability to demonstrate diverse experience is now highly regarded compared to working in purely number-crunching positions. “Following on from that, look to build your career through varied roles and different experiences, not chasing incremental salary increases,” César Gautier explains.
Finance is an exciting place
Traditional finance roles will become highly specialised and agile, with more nimble people able to take advantage of the efficiencies achieved through automation and data. “It is truly an exciting time for finance, as long as you have an appetite to embrace learning – and the change that comes with it,” says Michael Page’s César Gautier.
As EY’s Graeme McKenzie notes, “I was concerned about the industry, and was questioning where the next CFO was going to come from,” he reveals. “Now I’m more bullish on Finance roles today compared to five years ago – when there was this fear of a brain drain even across Asia and Europe.”
Flexible, agile thinking paired with high-level inquisitiveness is a must for the successful finance professional of tomorrow. “You really need that curiosity and agility associated with understanding the data,” says EY’s Graeme McKenzie. “So that you’re not just accepting what the reports say – but challenging the business, or potentially picking out new trends that the business needs to understand.”
And as Michael Page’s César Gautier says, you need to be able to move quickly in the modern business environment. “Being more agile is key, because let’s face it, the pace of change across all business and industries has stepped up – and it will not reverse now,” he adds.
“If you have great technical skills and a good academic base, you can build on that by finding a mentor – they are a critical way to make sure you are acquiring the right character and behaviour skills,” explains César Gautier of Michael Page.
Alan Hyslop of Global Petro Storage explains that what you gain with a mentor is a deeper understanding of how knowledge and experience are applied in real-world situations. “That’s where a lot of the soft skills come in: managing upwards, managing other people, expressing opinions in a group environment – all the things that actually matter to creating a career path with high potential,” he notes.
In a data-driven environment, standout Finance team members will be those who attack a problem looking for a loophole, and not those who accept the first outcome. “As an emerging or existing finance professional you aren’t expected to be an instant tech or digital expert, but you should have the agility to leverage new digital capabilities – which will include new software and robotic process automation,” Michael Page’s César Gautier says.
AstraZeneca’s Peter Fahey agrees. “The difference we’re seeing with new talent is that technology and digital have been around them their whole lives,” he says. “But it’s not just the young new talent who are excited about change – I’d say the vast majority of older finance people want to keep learning too.”
What is more important – what you learned through study or what you learned via experience? The answer: both. As Michael Page’s César Gautier explains, “Yes, your qualifications are important, but then again, so is the performance-based ‘proving ground’ you encounter in various stages of your career.”
While in the early stage of a career these non-qualification aspects may appear less important, this is not true Alan Hyslop notes. “Those are the things that determine the success of the later parts of your career. Through the first stages of your career, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for the ability to form and express opinions, to communicate effectively in a group environment and be commercial.”
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