As a result of the predicted global recession, the business environment continues to remain volatile and is more dynamic than ever. As a result, finance professionals who work efficiently, think strategically and can take quick decisions, can pivot as needed. To thrive, professionals must accept and adapt to changing circumstances while responding to opportunities and threats. These are among many of the essential skills that every top finance professional needs to succeed. Here are 10 of them:
Strategic thinking is about understanding who you are and how to adapt to the ever-evolving world around you. Top finance professionals can form a long-term view of a particular deal or investment while tracking day-to-day progress. This includes using specific metrics and adjusting those as and when needed. Connecting variables such as the condition of the economy, consumer demand, benefits from synergy and corporate culture becomes the basis of estimating value. One of the prime examples of this could be observed in the evaluation of tech companies. Today, metrics like ‘active users’ and ‘cost per customer acquisition’ are vital but they were hardly relevant decades ago.
Strategic thinking allows finance professionals to navigate complex and changing business landscapes and ensures that the organisation is efficiently moving in the right direction.
Data-driven decision making
As W. Edwards Deming would say “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” The old-fashioned method of using gut feeling or following what worked in the past is not enough in a changing environment. Today, finance professionals must be data-driven, measure progress against suitable metrics and pivot when required. This allows them to make quick, well-informed decisions based on hard facts. The importance of selecting and analysing the correct set of data to make decisions can’t be overstated. The acceptance of data-driven decision-making can be best observed by the spectacular rise of algorithmic trading.
Managing time and being super productive are other skills which are required to succeed in the finance industry. In current times, time is the most valuable asset for any organisation and has a huge impact on a company’s profitability. Companies that have effective time management controls in practice are more efficient, which allows them to generate more revenue at a relatively lower cost.
Using planners, notes, journals and reminders can help you keep track of time. You can follow these tips to start managing your time effectively:
Set goals: Establishing clear goals saves you from falling off track and motivates you to work towards them. You can also follow the SMART method of setting goals.
Plan: Planning ahead saves you time and avoids unnecessary stress that follows. Ensure that you make to-do lists in the evening for the next day.
Prioritise: Prioritise each item on your to-do list. This helps you to stay focussed and accomplish things on deadlines.
In the age of disruption, employees in a company are extremely valuable. Finance professionals, especially at a higher position, need to go basics to attract and retain top talent. Managing people is more than just hiring. This includes communicating a clear vision and mission, treating employees impartially, and setting fair goals. Apart from hiring compatible people, senior employees must ensure that they have everything they need to grow.
A finance professional needs to understand different personalities, listen, ask the right questions, resolve conflicts, educate others, and counsel clients. With constant changes in the business environment, companies depend on acquisitions, mergers, IPOs, etc. to adapt and grow. What they need, therefore, is an unbiased advisor who can understand their needs and help them make sound financial decisions. This further helps build trust, which is vital for a long-term business association.
With rapidly changing circumstances, financial professionals must set clear goals which allow them to be agile, flexible, and capable of adapting and taking the required measures in a situation. You have the freedom and flexibility to change course when needed, respond quickly to opportunities and obstacles, and operate freely. The current trend in VC funding illustrates this. Given the global uncertainty in demand, start-ups have witnessed a 50% YOY drop in VC funding. These funds have been allocated to other asset classes such as real estate, which has seen a surge in investment.
The importance of effective communication in finance is often overlooked. However, as change brings uncertainty, a finance professional must be able to explain its impact to their client to establish trust and form a long-term relationship. Despite the financial industry being very hierarchical, finance professionals who want to succeed must communicate well with other stakeholders. You should be open to two-way communication and must welcome their team members to help them think through problems. Here are other non-technical skills you can benefit from learning.
The finance industry is no stranger to technology. Being the largest contributor to the GDP, across most developed nations, it is the third most tech savvy industry, right behind media and technology itself. Finance professionals should be broad-minded and willing to learn and adapt to new technology. Regardless of the department you work in, you will need computer skills and the ability to pick up new programs quickly. You can’t imagine the finance industry without Excel and all the tools for financial modelling.
A cross-functional skill set
Today, a finance professional needs to go beyond traditional practices. Cross-functional skills like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, knowledge from multiple disciplines, and advanced communication are key to succeed in a dynamic business environment. You will never work in silos and often rely extensively on collaboration, teamwork and delegation to achieve goals.
You will often encounter problems in meeting your targets, and being able to solve them creatively rather than cracking under pressure is essential. To get ahead, it can be helpful to look beyond your responsibilities. For instance, by helping your coworkers solve their problems rather than simply reporting them to upper management, you’ll be viewed as a team player.
Now more than ever, finance professionals need these skills and experienced co-workers to navigate the changing environment and thrive in a new normal. You must think strategically, make data-driven decisions, manage your time and people effectively and remain agile and productive in decision-making. You must also communicate your opinions, while respecting the culture of the organisation, clearly and effectively to your peers, seniors and clients. Practising these skills will help you to grow both personally and professionally.