The finance function is changing. Every day. Just like the rest of society and the speed of change is constantly increasing. Large on-site finance departments are a thing of the past and automation and technology have made their entry and redefining the possibilities Finance must bring the numbers to the business. So what does all this mean for finance professionals and new graduates who are planning a long-term career in Finance? I have previously published series about how the CFO can transform Finance and how finance professionals can become more successful, however, in this new series I intend to take us all back to the starting point of planning a career (or potentially re-plan). Further, I would like to discuss the steps to take throughout the preliminary stages of your finance career where you lay out your path to long-term success.
What steps to take for a successful career in Finance?
The topic is obviously quite broad and I won’t be able to cover all angles and not the areas of Finance where I haven’t worked or had any exposure to. That I will leave to the experts in those fields. So, what do I intend to cover? Below is a preliminary list of career steps and considerations that I would like to discuss with you.
- How To Learn The Basics Of Finance?: When many of the traditional tasks of Finance and Accounting have been moved to global shared service centers it will become difficult to learn those classic skills of debit/credit, reconciliations, AR/AP etc. so how do you go about obtaining them and are they even relevant when the tasks can potentially be automated so no human hands are needed?
- Financial Analysts Should Embrace Big Data: Big Data, Advanced Analytics, Data Science etc. are all hot topics in today’s finance function, however, this is advanced stuff. Is it even possible for a common finance professional to venture into these areas or do you truly need PhD’s only?
- How Can Finance People Learn About Business?: The only people left in the frontline finance function are those that need to collaborate with the business and help them achieve even higher levels of performance. However, how can a finance professional learn about the business (s)he works in to ensure (s)he can add value? Is it only on-the-job training or are there other ways?
- Should I Be A Finance Leader Or Specialist?: The ever so crucial choice between leadership or specialist. The future finance function would be calling on highly specialized knowledge hence choosing the specialist path might give you a lot more career progression than in the past where the only path was the one of leadership if you wanted to progress in your company. So what path should you choose?
- Can I Get Hired With A Finance Degree Only?: Here’s a classic question that many finance professionals ask early on in their career and trying to answer this as a non-certified professional might be going out on a limp. Of course, the answer is “it depends” but the question is depending on what?
- How To Become A Finance Business Partner?: This is undoubtedly my favourite topic which naturally leaves a risk of all the previous articles being filled with bias. In fact, I can guarantee you that they will be filled with bias so hope I can count on you to keep me earnest. In any case, I would like to take you through my view of what’s needed to become a finance business partner as I frequently get this question from people considering the job or interviewing for same. So, my aim is to make a mini guide for those that wish to become a finance business partner which can hopefully help you decide whether this would be the right choice for you or not.
A lot of ground to cover but what’s missing?
You will probably notice that there’s no talk about Treasury, M&A, Tax or other important parts of the finance function, however, I simply don’t have enough knowledge about these function to provide you with any proper guidance. What do you think is missing from above list of career steps and considerations?