Many finance professionals aren’t equipped with the broad skills employers demand in today’s rapidly-evolving marketplace, including analytical thinking, business acumen and communications, according to a recent panel discussion, “From Conformance to Performance: Developing the Finance Leaders of Tomorrow,” presented by the CGMA, AICPA, CIMA, and Bloomberg Radio last Thursday.
Senior finance executives and their teams from organizations including American Express, EY, Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial and more attended the event in order to gain insight on the best ways to address this issue by developing abilities necessary for the finance leaders of tomorrow.
Primary takeaways from the panel, which was moderated by Carol Massar, Co-Host of Bloomberg Advantage, included the need for finance professionals to learn more strategic business skills and obtain additional training in order to become better partners to their organization.
The event featured a panel of seasoned and young finance leaders from varying backgrounds, including:
- Robert Falzon, EVP and CFO, Prudential Financial
- Ash Noah, Vice President of External Relations, the American Institute of CPAs
- Elizabeth Pittelkow, Director of Accounting and Compliance, ArrowStream
- Linda Zukauckas, Corporate Controller, American Express
Accounting and finance professionals face new business challenges and increasing regulatory complexity, which necessitate new skills, competencies and resources. Panelists focused on that in today’s post-financial crisis world, the role of finance professional is broadening: they are increasingly relied upon to look beyond the numbers and effectively drive business strategy and results, support corporate strategy, empower innovation and deliver sustainable value to their organizations.
“Having the aptitude and ability to analyze business situations, strategies and even big data is critical in determining where the company should go and how to keep it competitive in today’s environment,” stated Zukauckas.
According to Falzon, in order to truly excel in their profession, finance professionals need to know what drives value: “This can be accomplished through training programs like the CGMA designation, as well as by asking for opportunities with different business functions in order to obtain varied exposure,” he said. “Today’s business environment is changing; the skills we look for with talent has broadened and the level of collaboration between all parts of the organization is growing. In order for these marriages to work, finance professionals cannot underestimate the power of strategic skills, especially communication, and formal training is an important factor in obtaining those skills.”
According to Pittelkow, finance professionals need to demonstrate early in their career the ability to be strategic and analytical thinkers, well-rounded communicators, networkers, decision-makers and problem-solvers that understand the business thoroughly:
“As a CGMA designation holder with a diverse set of business skills, I’m able to take on a more comprehensive role, merging finance with other business areas such as sales, human resources and legal,” she noted. “Today’s finance leaders need to demonstrate they care about the macro business environment, and it’s important to have a reliable learning platform to turn to in order to keep their knowledge sharp.”
“While having a strong technical skillset is vital, having solely this kind of expertise, and operating in a silo, is not adequate,” stated Noah. “You do not understand 80 percent of your organization’s value if you are purely operating as a balance sheet accountant. Companies today want to see their financial professionals engaged with the strategy and execution, which requires thoroughly understanding how the business works.”
All panelists agreed that a more strategic skillset is required. The CFO of the future must be able to interpret and analyze both financial and non-financial intelligence to make better business decisions. He or she must also have strong communication and leadership skills, be well read, diverse and seek to foster a team that accepts a lifetime of learning. While many of these skills are honed through experience, training and education play a key role in forming the base of business knowledge needed.
For more information on the CGMA, visit their site here.