The business landscape and the finance sector within it is changing. If you consider that more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies have either been acquired, gone bankrupt or ceased to exist since the turn of the millennium, it’s clear to see that globally, industry and commerce is in a considerable period of flux. The effects of the global crisis have emphasised the importance for Finance to deliver cost savings and efficiencies. This need is leading to a higher adoption rate for digital and cloud based technologies. Digital tech is changing how business is done from the ground floor up. Businesses are now able to digitise the majority of their finance and accounting processes offering widespread savings and benefits.
Arguably the most important technological advancement is the proliferation of cloud computing. Cloud computing provides a source of dynamic capacity by allowing users to consume innovation as and when it happens. In the past a business would have to wait for IT departments to upgrade an in-house application, now SaaS users can gain access to the latest software as soon as it is released. With much of this new tech providing access to big data, Finance’s ability to offer meaningful business insight is fundamentally changing. In the past finance professionals looked at data retrospectively to try and understand what happened and why. Now analysts are able to look forward, correlating, forecasting and predicting future business scenarios through connecting the various data points. The next ten years are going to see the work of accountants and the roles of finance departments and CFOs becoming more dynamic as new technology changes business needs and models going forward.
This rapid innovation presents both threat and opportunity for the sector; those individuals and businesses that are flexible to changes will flourish, and those that remain static will be left behind.
What does this mean for employment?
According to the report ‘The Future of the City of London’s Economy’, hiring in the sectors of finance and technology will help to create 145,000 new jobs in the capital by 2025, with around 39,000 created in the City alone.
At Howarth Morris we’re seeing an increase in digital finance roles, particularly analytical roles, as companies struggle to get to grips with big data and the benefits it offers. The recent ACCA report ‘The changing role of the CFO’ details how CFOs are primarily concerned with their access to, and ability to keep hold of the right finance talent. Employers will need to invest more time in recruiting and attracting quality talent, offering competitive packages that include both mentoring and training to foster employee loyalty.
The rise of virtual teams will inevitably make mentoring and development strategies more complex as face to face interaction becomes more limited. There will be a need for new skills, and finance leaders will increasingly have to strike the right balance between specialist resource and broader finance capabilities.
For accountancy professionals the next few years will involve a huge change in culture. In a recent article ICAS explored how the work of accountancy professionals is changing. As technology leads to a more do-it-yourself approach for many individuals and businesses, accountancy professionals will be less concerned with day to day accountancy tasks. According to the chair of the ICAS Members in Practice Advisory Board “The focus has now shifted away from compliance towards business advisory work. It’s not about moving away from our specialist expertise, but about embracing our full skill set beyond our professional qualifications. If we can work in a trusted capacity from the business start-up stage right through funding, stock control, expansion and even into retirement, we’re rewarded with a loyal and productive client base.”
Going forward the use of specialist recruiters with the ability to nurture and retain relationships with candidates will become more important. Finance professionals will need to stay ahead of the curve, and those that integrate digital into their role will be able to leverage its benefits, remaining competitive and ensuring that they are most employable.
How to integrate digital into your finance role
Understand the importance of big data – Big data provides insights for predicting future trends. Finance professionals will need to become more comfortable spending less time recording and verifying the numbers, and more time making the data connections and explaining the implications to the business or your client.
Be adaptable to changing technologies – Change can be unnerving at times but it’s important for finance and accounting professionals to embrace new technologies and digital processes. Make an effort to really understand the benefits and how you can use it to your advantage. If your company is implementing a new process or technology try and get involved by attending briefings, and offering your time to test new systems. Be at the frontline to avoid being left behind.
Keep up to date with the new technologies and digital trends – This will provide a broader view of how digital is impacting finance and accounting as a whole and provide insights into how this is being used within different companies. Being able to discuss current news and trends with colleagues or new employers will demonstrate your awareness of digital and enthusiasm for knowledge.
Have a professional online presence and contribute to thought communities – Contributing to online communities such as LinkedIn will allow you to demonstrate your digital expertise to your current and prospective employers, giving you a competitive edge!