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Earning & Keeping a Seat at the Table: Finance Has to Adapt

Jul 30, 2019

By Candice Cantelli Meklis, VP LS & FP&A Practice, Archetype Consulting

Whether you realize it or not, finance professionals are living through a revolution. Thirty years ago, computers arrived. Twenty years ago, we relied on fax machines for secure messages. Ten years ago, we sat glued to our desks for a hard-wired internet connection. Now, we have laptops and can work anywhere, we hardly ever fax, and we use various Wi-Fi networks. We went from web to web 2.0 and accelerated our thirst for the next technology to help us do things faster, easier and more efficiently.

As we evolved, some things became obsolete. We replaced what were once considered standard office items with new-fangled technology to avoid being left behind. In the same way, hiring managers have evolved and now seek talent differently. Those “must have, sought after” skillsets have been overshadowed by the more “in demand, tech-savvy” skill sets that weren’t required 10 years ago.

TODAY’S FINANCE SKILLSET

When I started my career in FP&A, I could count on one hand the skills I needed to be successful:

- The ability to serve as a true business partner, blending functional abilities, business acumen and relationship building

- The ability to juggle multiple projects and deadlines, solo or as a team

- A strong foundation in both accounting and finance fundamentals.

However, in the wake of the rapidly changing business landscape, if I were starting my career now or looking to hire a team member, I would seek an enhanced skillset. In fact, skills I hired for five years ago aren’t the same ones I’d hire for now. Now, we expect—and frankly, need—finance to:

- Think strategically and forward

- Grasp and own the financial applications behind the numbers

- Create and manage complex and diverse models across multiple business lines, currencies and geographies

- Add value with deep, industry-specific experience.

Finance can’t be pigeonholed as just a keeper of the numbers. Practitioners are now expected to have broad technical expertise, industry expertise, business partnering skills, continuous improvement skills and cross-functional knowledge.

HOW FINANCE CAN SUCCEED

For finance to truly embrace its new role, companies need to equip practitioners with the technologies to help them be successful. Imagine an office environment where employees aren’t fighting with internal systems and spending all of their time compiling data; rather, employees are spending time analyzing information and proactively adding insights and recommendations that help companies grow.

If finance wants to be a true and trusted business partner and stay in-demand, employees need to create value. By partnering with the technology leaders across all functional areas, finance teams can stay relevant and fold-in new skills while serving as a center of excellence that uniquely blends both the finance and IT lenses.

As finance professionals, it is our job to embrace the evolution of our roles and commit to continuous improvement. This commitment should stretch across our baseline and newly enhanced skills. We can help drive this change across the business, while at the same time create a deeper need for finance involvement and insight. By embracing the technologies behind the numbers, we can more efficiently help to bridge the gaps and clearly see how financial decisions impact the entire business model.

For more insights on how finance can keep up in today’s competitive environment, don’t miss Candice Cantelli Meklis’ session, Earning (& Keeping) a Seat at the ‘Big Kids’ Table: How Finance Has to Adapt to Stay Relevant & In-Demand, at AFP 2019.