The finance function of the future won’t look anything like it does today.
According to PJ Bishop, VP for partners, accountants and alliances across Africa and the Middle East at Sage, the financial services, accounting and audit industries are on the cusp of an automation transformation. And this change will be guided by growth in emerging technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). This shift is set to free up valuable time so that finance staff can focus their attention on higher value work.
But finance professionals shouldn’t be afraid of these new technologies, says KPMG. In fact, advanced technologies empower finance teams to become more strategic business partners; making it possible to increase collaboration between different departments in the process.
To make this a reality, finance professionals must evolve their skillsets.
A 2020 Sage survey found that technological literacy (57%), relationship building (46%) and business advisory (44%) skills were the top three competencies that finance professionals need to master in the coming years.
Below, Bishop outlines three things that finance professionals can do to develop their competencies in order to stay relevant into the future.
Harness soft skills
AI has already automated repetitive tasks, which increases accuracy and efficiency. It also reveals hidden insights and trends that might affect broader business operations. This doesn’t mean that there is less need for full-time finance staff, rather it means that these professionals have more time to analyse and interpret data in order to extract real value for clients. Technology can’t relate to, engage with, create connections and build relationships with clients. Soft skills like creativity, empathy, communication, negotiation and leadership will become more and more important for finance teams to master, explains Bishop.
Add value beyond balancing the books
Businesses don’t need number-crunchers anymore; they need business partners and advisors who can spot problems and identify opportunities. In 2021, finance leaders must gain an in-depth understanding of every department – including each’s unique needs and challenges – if they want to provide this level of service.
Embrace life-long learning
There is always something to learn. Learning is one of the best defences against uncertainty. In 2021, finance professionals must think about skills development as an investment in their future. For example, by building your business advisory skills you’ll be able to offer strategic advice based on the information presented. Business owners who lack financial acumen want this kind of expert advice and they’re willing to pay for it. Similarly, don’t forget the value of soft skills. When offering guidance, you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly and build trust by offering sound, strategic direction.
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