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24th September 2021

What Skills do I need to future-proof my finance career?

The world is changing, and so is finance. In just 10 years, the sector will be unrecognisable from what it is today. Digital transformation, automation and a big data boom will see finance professionals embrace AI as standard practice, and many of today’s finance roles will no longer exist.

Sounds scary. But it’s not if you know where things are going so you can prepare to stay relevant and develop the skills needed in finance jobs. That’s why I’ve laid out the key skills that you can develop to get ahead of the curve and futureproof your finance career.

1) Data Analytics

Right now, businesses have access to more data than ever before. And this is not only going to continue, it’s going to explode, with data expected to grow at a CAGR of 10-20% per year.

This huge growth means that Data Analytics specialists—people who can analyse big data to create insight and recommendations— will be in extremely high demand. According to a World Economic Forum report, traditional backwards-looking reporting analyst roles will be replaced by forward-looking decision support roles with business partnering skills.

If you’re not familiar, data analytics refers to the process of collecting, transforming and analysing data to inform decision-making processes. By utilising the data at hand, data analysts and finance business partners provide key decision makers with the actionable intelligence needed to make well-informed, lower-risk decisions.

Examples of popular data analytics and presentation tools include PowerBI and Tableau. Finance teams will look for individuals who can utilise these tools to build analysis and present findings to the business.

If you want to get started learning about Data Analytics and some of the key tools and skills, I recommend the ICAEW Data analytics courses.

If you already have a good understanding of Excel and want to start the journey of generating business impact through complex data analytics, I recommend the ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate which is available at analyst and manager levels.

2) Finance Transformation

The rise of automation will allow finance teams to deliver an unprecedented amount of business impact. However, with rapid change comes instability. This is where transformation specialists come in.

Many finance organisations now look to Finance Transformation specialists to guide them through periods of technological and process change. Their role involves standardising and automating processes such as budgeting, reporting and data processing. More than that, their work gives Finance Directors and CFOs more time to focus on building their team’s capabilities.

These specialists are often brought in with specific problems to solve. Once changes have been successfully implemented, they may move on to larger companies with bigger, more interesting finance challenges to transform. As the speed of change only accelerates, their skills will always be in demand

Looking to learn more about finance transformation? This ICAEW course on Leading Change in the Finance function gives great insight on what this work involves and how to be effective at it.

3) AI/Machine Learning Specialisms

Like Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have exploded in the past decade, their impact growing exponentially year on year. This boom, powered by big data and breakthroughs in microchips and computing power dictated by Moore’s Law, has spread into almost every industry on the planet.

AI, particularly machine learning, has already permeated many finance roles and processes. It is already helping companies to detect fraud and money laundering, automate trading activities and provide in-depth advisory services. For FP&A teams, machine learning will increase the reliability and accuracy of market forecasting.

Machine Learning is the combination of algorithms and statistics applied to big data that automatically predict, learn, and improve through experience. For example, in forecasting, patterns can be recognised in historic variables, allowing for more accurate future statistical predictions. In audit, fraud detection can be improved by ML recognising odd transactions and patterns seen in other data sets.

While many think of AI as a disruptive force impacting jobs, largescale adoption will make way for a new wave of AI-focused roles –especially within finance. Businesses and finance teams looking to invest in AI will need dedicated specialists to implement, maintain and develop AI models and strategies. Specific skills required will be Big Data programming languages such as Python, R and SQL, plus those relevant to building ML models themselves.

For those looking to boost their understanding of the uses of  AI and Machine Learning, the Finance in a Digital World platform for ICAEW members provides great context for both beginners and those with some foundational knowledge.

With all the changes that are coming, the future of finance can seem unclear.  There are new skills that finance professionals will have to develop in both finance or accounting jobs. But the fact that you’re here right now means that you can get ahead of the curve and thrive in the exciting new world of finance!

If you would like to get more clarity on your unique path, CABA offers ICAEW members support from highly respected and established career coaches (including me!). Find further information about personal and professional coaching through CABA and get career support from one of the highly respected CABA coaches today.

Oliver Deacon

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