The Skills You Need
to Build a Career in Finance

See also: Commercial Awareness

Today, every job profile includes a list of must-have skills, together with some complementary skills that will help you achieve more in your career. The same applies when you are building a career in the finance sector.

Every organization, irrespective of its scale and type of business, requires skilled finance and accounting professionals to manage the company’s finances and ensure that the organization is spending its money where there are the best returns.

The essential skills for finance professionals have evolved over time as these professionals are now expected to have astute business and analytical skills. Even if you are a newbie in the world of finance, you have to be proficient with numbers and should have a good working knowledge of popular ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.

Below we detail the must-have skills you need to build a promising career in finance and accounting:

Interpersonal Skills

The days when finance professionals were expected to work in a silo are over. Dynamic finance professionals who work in organizations should not only have good accounting skills but also need to have good interpersonal skills.

Whether working in a multi-national organization or for a bootstrapped startup, finance professionals may have to interact with employees or clients on a regular basis. In some scenarios, they may also need to talk to key stakeholders in the organization and outside to come up with future plans for the organization.

A combination of exceptional number-crunching skills and interpersonal skills will help you scale new heights in your career.

Accounting Qualification

There are departments in organizations that solely focus on the candidate’s knowledge and skills. One such vertical is Software Development where many companies even hire college-dropouts if candidates have good programming skills.

However, this is certainly not the case in finance and accounting. Finance and accounting professionals need to have valid industry qualifications to secure a job in the field. This principle applies whether you are residing in India, the USA, or any other country in the world.

Completing a college program, whether it be a traditional or online degree in finance or accounting indicates that you not only possess these skills but are also aware of the processes and standards that are followed in the world of finance.

Knowledge of ERP Software

Many small businesses keep a track of sales, inventory, etc. in Excel sheets that are stored in local systems. This approach is neither reliable nor scalable. Businesses cannot gain insights from Excel sheets, hence they make use of ERP software.

Candidates who are proficient in using ERP/accounting software are likely to be in higher demand since IT/software has become an intangible part of the finance domain. In addition, ERP software helps in making decisions based on factual information, checking business performance, and providing actionable insights, hence allowing organizations to improve their financial performance.

Analytical Skills

Having relevant qualifications can help you secure a job in the rapidly changing world of finance, but you have to upgrade your skills on a regular basis to stay relevant in the industry.

Just having number-crunching skills will not suffice as you could be easily replaced with another low-paying and less-experienced resource with the same skill set. To stay abreast in the world of finance, you should have an analytical mindset that helps you come up with relevant solutions depending on the internal and external market scenarios.

As you move up the corporate ladder, you are also expected to provide solutions that add value to the company’s growth. You can arrive at such solutions when you have to think out of the box and focus on KPI (Key Performance Indicators) driven results.

Top-Notch Communication Skills

Today’s finance professionals are no longer restricted to their cubicles as there will be many scenarios where they have to interact with others over email, conference calls, chat, or face to face. Face to face communication requires interpersonal skills.

Finance professionals are expected to have a good awareness of their written and oral communication skills. They should also have a good working knowledge of the financial jargon and acronyms that are in common usage (for example, P&L, accounting standards, etc.)

As finance involves numbers, anything that is wrongly communicated could affect the company’s brand in the external world. A combination of skills in finance and awesome communication skills is the ideal package for a finance/accounting professional.

Financial Reporting

The reports that are created as a part of financial reporting are available to internal stakeholders, as well as the external public. Financial statements are an integral part of financial accounting and give an indication that the organization is adhering to the necessary norms required to run an enterprise.

As these reports focus on the financial performance of the organization, they help in the decision-making process. Finding professionals that have an in-depth understanding of P&L (Profit & Loss) statements and other financial reporting skills is always a challenge.

To stay ahead of the curve, skilled finance professionals should focus on building and enhancing their financial reporting skills as these skills will be helpful once they are at a level that involves ‘decision-making’!

Business acumen

The financial outcome largely depends on the company’s performance along with various other external factors that may or may not be within our control. Skilled finance professionals have superforecasting skills that can be extremely helpful in predicting outcomes.

Skilled finance professionals are aware of market dynamics and the impact that changes in these dynamics can have on the company’s financial performance. Since a company’s performance is directly related to business performance, finance professionals are expected to possess business acumen that can aid in the decision-making process.

They should be innovative enough to automate their mundane tasks so that they can focus on activities that will add more value to themselves as well as to the organization.

Along with the above skills, they should have an appetite to innovate, learn, and grow at a breakneck speed.

The world of finance is changing at a rapid pace, especially with the evolution of tools and software that is used for automation, business intelligence, and other vital activities related to financial accounting. Finance professionals must constantly develop their skills to keep pace with this fast-changing world.

About the Author

This article was provided by Tally, a technology and innovation company delivering business software to small and medium sized businesses.