The next generation of finance leaders

Just as the role of accountants is developing in today's business world, so too is the role of finance leaders. According to a recent global survey from Ernst and Young (EY), emerging pressures and the broadening scope of the role means that finance leaders need new abilities to succeed on the modern career path. As a result, employers looking to recruit a leader for their finance team will need to stay alert for the right expertise and experience that will continue to benefit their business. 

Finance leadership undergoing evolution

The EY survey found that more and more, right-brained abilities will become essential for finance leaders as they begin to fill more strategic and leadership roles. For instance, close to 60 per cent of respondents said that in the next five years, interpersonal and teambuilding skills will be vital for these professionals. 

Managing Partner of Markets and Accounts at EY EMEIA, Hanne Jesca Bax, says that those looking to move into this position will need to act quickly and respond to the changing demands of the role.

"The CFO role, like many other roles, is at a turning point. As finance organisations face a more connected, globalised and heavily scrutinised future, tomorrow's finance leaders need to think strategically about the know-how and experiences they will need to succeed in the future. Only those who are quick and versatile in adapting the profiles, experiences and skills to the strategy, culture and maturity of a particular business or industry will have access to finance leadership roles," she said.

The new role of finance leaders

Among the biggest disrupters of finance leadership that EY identified are new regulation, digital technology, risk and data. These factors have resulted in finance leaders reaching all new functions in business. Interestingly, over a decade ago, KPMG predicted that by 2010, there would be no finance function within organisations at all. This has proved decidedly untrue – instead, people in accounting jobs have the opportunity to impact companies in more ways than ever.

PricewaterhouseCoopers identifies four functions that future finance leaders will undertake:

  • They will be responsible for helping organisations to become more resilient in the the face of shifting risk. 
  • They will help to mediate the interactions between a business and external stakeholders.
  • They will use tools such as big data and analytics to aid companies in navigating and making decisions.
  • They will foster a more connected organisation that balances the capabilities of both people and technology. 

Cultivating the next generation

However, it's not just the role of finance leaders that has changed, but the way they get there. EY revealed that many organisations are not sufficiently planning ahead, with just 28 per cent of companies reporting that they have a plan to replace their current CFO when they need to. As a result, it's important that businesses act now to develop their accounting if they want to have sufficient finance expertise available in the future. So how can this be done?

The EY research found that the most important initiative for cultivating future finance leaders is giving them the chance to lead major projects, cited by 42 per cent of respondents. In addition, both talent development and mentoring from senior finance executives were highlighted by 38 per cent of respondents.

To prepare for the future, businesses need to make growth and development a priority right from when they are hiring an accountant. If you are looking for finance professionals that will remain assets to your company in the long term, the team at Durno Recruitment can help you find New Zealand's most promising talent. 

Alex Harrison