Finance chiefs prioritise technical competence

 In Business

Finance chiefs believe technical competence is the top quality required by the finance professionals of tomorrow, according to a new survey.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) polled Chief Financial Officers, Financial Directors and Senior to find out what skills they considered most important to the next crop of financial leaders.

The top requirement for successful finance professionals was technical ability, with interpersonal and skills also ranking highly. Communication skills were cited as being essential by 37 per cent of respondents, likeability by 30 per cent, leadership by 29 per cent, commercial awareness by 28 per cent and an entrepreneurial mindset by 28 per cent.

What is seen as technical competence in finance has changed in recent years. A good head for figures has always been a prerequisite, of course, as has a working knowledge of financial systems and accounting practices. Now, though, the use of technology in accountancy is increasingly important, and up-and-coming financial professionals also need to be well-versed in the use of different apps and software.

ICAEW Director of Global Student Recruitment Sharon Spice said: “In addition to academic ability, students need to demonstrate they are work-ready – they need a blend of skills and behaviours, and must be able to prove they have the ability to communicate, solve problems and work in a team.”

The ICAEW study comes just as A-level students received their results, with many securing places at university rather than joining the workforce. According to the ICAEW, today’s students should not focus on academic grades alone, and look to gain workplace experience that will enable them to improve skills such as communicating and entrepreneurship that employers want prospective employees to have.

“Too many young people are leaving education without having had the chance to fully consider their future options or how their skills and experiences fit with opportunities in the jobs market,” said Spice.

The government made the wrong decision when compulsory work experience was removed from the curriculum in 2012, she added: “Experiencing the work environment is not a ‘nice-to-do’ activity, and as these findings show, it is a necessity for young people to develop skills in addition to academic achievements.

“Young people must have the opportunity to develop skills outside the classroom, and it is vital that students, and those supporting them, ask whether their next step will ensure they develop the skills as well as technical abilities that employers need.”

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