Finance execs face hiring and automation challenges

Financial executives in the U.S. and Canada are having trouble finding skilled professionals who can handle both financial and data management, according to a new report.

The report, from the Financial Education & Research Foundation, a nonprofit research affiliate of Financial Executives International, and the global staffing firm Robert Half, found that while 78 percent of the over 1,600 survey respondents believe their current staffing is adequate, only 33 percent in the U.S. and 26 percent in Canada think they are staffed appropriately to manage unexpected projects.

A common factor behind the staffing and talent shortage is the need to find professionals with a mix of financial and data management skills. That accounts for the growing trend to hire consultants for certain projects.

“Digital transformation continues to reshape financial functions,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, in a statement. “However, we are seeing leaders adapting and evolving their business and labor models to address these technological changes. Properly staffing and managing accounting and finance initiatives will take on greater urgency as technology becomes even more prevalent and compliance challenges persist.”

Despite the trend toward increasing automation as a way to make workers more productive, most of the survey respondents said they don’t intend to automate certain processes that benefit from human input, such as financial planning and decision-making.

Forty percent of the financial executives surveyed indicated that compliance costs are increasing, such as automating internal controls over financial reporting. Keeping pace with regulatory changes and staff lacking the needed skills were seen as the greatest barriers to compliance.

“We believe the annual benchmarking report is an invaluable tool for financial executives within any organization,” stated Andrej Suskavcevic, president and CEO of FEI and FERF. "This year’s results show that organizations are finding the appropriate balance between technology and human resources. Learning from the leaders developing these strategies can provide a best-practices guide for professionals still seeking to effectively integrate both elements.”

The report can be found at www.ferf.org/reports and www.roberthalf.com/benchmarking.

Andrej Suskavcevic of FEI

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