Opinion

5 essential skills required by future finance directors

The demands placed on senior financial professionals in both the public and private sectors have never been greater. The role and responsibilities have evolved considerably over the last decade. They have become increasingly complex with FDs having to balance heightened levels of scrutiny and accountability whilst contributing to the strategic direction of an organisation.

In Pure’s work in helping employers recruit senior finance professionals and providing executive career coaching, we have seen first-hand just how much the skillset has changed in the last 10 years. Ahead of our next Future FDs Forum in June, run in partnership with Deloitte, we thought now would be the ideal opportunity to take a look at the skills required by the next generation of FDs.

From change management to commercial acumen, aspiring FDs need to develop a broader set of qualities alongside technical knowledge. Below is a glance at the breadth of leadership skills required by professionals who are aiming for promotion.

  1. Influencing key stakeholders

Influencing fellow board members and external stakeholders is a key skill, since FDs are answerable to a wide range of people. They are also expected to answer questions, explain results and forecasts, and identify growth opportunities. Knowing how to influence and challenge people including the CEO, non-executive directors, investors, shareholders, customers, legal partners, trade organisations, auditors and banks requires exceptional skills in relationship building, negotiation and persuasion.

  1. Strong leadership

Motivating and inspiring a team is key to employee productivity, loyalty and creativity. A strong leader uses a whole range of skills and qualities to generate excellent results; high levels of energy, determination, focus and vision drives people to perform at their best. Positivity is also a key to unlocking people’s potential – everyone wants to work in a happy team, especially during times of additional pressure.

  1. Managing change

Many organisations operate in fast-paced environments, developing in line with shifting customer expectations and rapid economic changes. Ineffective change management can do serious damage to an organisation’s reputation, employee morale and performance. Since FDs are involved in making major business decisions and with change happening more frequently, senior finance professionals need to have proven experience on their CVs.

  1. Commercial insight

Whether you work in the private, public or not-for-profit sector, commercial acumen has become absolutely crucial. Understanding how business works, customer behaviour, market trends and the broader industry all influence the strategic decisions made by the FD. Therefore, keeping up to date on commercial developments is a must.

  1. Clear communication

Where finance professionals may have solid accountancy expertise, they also need the qualities that help them engage confidentially with people from non-finance backgrounds.

They need to bring financial data to life and put it into context, so people understand the implications of the information for them and their teams.  Taking the time to hone and develop your communication and presentation skills, will pay dividends in the medium term.

If you are an aspiring FD and you would like an opportunity to develop these skills, come along to our next workshop. In addition to the seminars, delegates also have access to mentors who are all highly experienced CFOs. The next seminar, 'Making the Change', takes place in Cambridge on June 4th. Contact Gill Buchanan to find out more: 01223 209888 or gill@prs.uk.com.