A recent survey reported in Accounting and Business International focuses on the key attributes that finance professionals need to succeed in today’s business world. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) carried out the survey. The seven key areas they identified were:

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1.         Technical prowess with ethical values

The modern accountant needs to demonstrate absolute integrity, while carrying out their functions to the most demanding standards. The temptations are legion – only the inner-directed professional is going to be able to maintain integrity when the going gets tough. Modern corporate governance demands that those responsible for the finances of an organisation, are not only ethical themselves, but can influence corporate culture in a positive way.

2.         Use of intelligence

This doesn’t just mean how bright an individual is. It means his or her ability to concatenate knowledge from numerous different sources, synthesise it and then analyse it for problem-solving and other business processes. Complexity is a stand-out feature of the modern business world, and the ability to think rationally in a complex and hard-to-interpret situation is a key asset.

3.         Creative thinking

The business intelligence referred to above, will only take an individual so far. He or she also needs to be able to think of new ways of doing things and to apply different perspectives. The ability to do this goes hand-in-hand with problem solving, because sometimes existing solutions will not solve the new problem that is being considered.

4.         Digital awareness

This means that the finance professional is aware of the current impact of digital developments on business. But this isn’t just a matter of knowing how SAP or Oracle work, for example. It’s also vital to have a strategic view of the way digital technology is going to change the world of work, working practices and commercial culture.

5.         Emotional understanding

The somewhat detached accountant of yesteryear, immersed in balance sheets and profit and loss accounts, with limited people skills, is not going to succeed in the business world today. Finance professionals need to understand the issues, emotions and motivations behind the numbers. People expect empathy and communication from everyone at work, including highly skilled specialists.

6.         Ability to look ahead

Clients and organisations really want people who are able to put together an insightful view of future developments. These professionals are able to consolidate current business intelligence and use it as the basis for realistic projections of future scenarios. Because the future may hold both risks and opportunities, businesses value this kind of thinking highly. Horizon scanning is extremely important to them, because early warnings can protect the business from damage, or allow it early access to important new opportunities.

7.         Relevant experience

It’s not so much that finance professionals need to show miles on the clock, as that they need to demonstrate familiarity with current business preoccupations and practices. Maturity gained through experience isn’t a matter of age in years, but is more a result of being exposed to different situations, and gaining the ability to cope in demanding circumstances.


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