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Insights from the top: Traits managers look for in finance and accounting professionals.

Finance & Accounting roles involve adaptability now more than ever. Gone are the days where hiring managers only look for technical skills and experience in the industry. Rajiv Ramani takes us through the changes within the finance space with respect to digital transformation and what direction the industry is taking. The CFO of Coty, a global beauty company, also shares advice for budding finance professionals on how to succeed in their field. 

You’ve been in this industry for a long time now. As we move into the digital age, what changes have you observed in the industry in the last two years?

The pressure to transform the business & remain competitive is high for both public listed companies and private companies. The need to innovate and be efficient is a constant. Embrace e-commerce and the digital age - either by investing in it or by forming strategic partnerships with the entities that will enable this to take place. Looking away or thinking this is just a "fad" will lead to grave consequences.

As a leader, what direction do you see the industry taking in the future? What areas, techniques or systems do you foresee the industry expanding to?

  • The days of signing cheques will end.
  • Block chain, AI, data analytics, predictive analytics will not be just buzzwords for us to understand, it will be part of our daily life.
  • All data & transactions will not be stored on shared drives but on the cloud.
  • All back office transactions regardless of whether PLCs, MNCs or SMEs will be processed through Shared Service Centers.
  • As the banking, manufacturing and other industries innovate, so will we in tandem. It will be a natural inertia.

Digital transformation within the industry includes the implementation of automation. Some teams are apprehensive to change as it brings uncertainty. What can companies do to ensure smooth operations should this scenario occur?

Communicate and over communicate to employees. Create awareness of new technology and implications to the accounting industry and the business. There will most likely be a need to engage external consultants & and speakers to talk about this subject and how this will positively affect the business. This opportunity may also be used to retrain and upskill some workers so that they remain relevant and competitive within the company and the industry.

In today’s world, finance professionals are expected to be well-rounded and have a strong understanding around the business’ activities. What are your thoughts on this?

Most definitely. Over the last 5 years I’ve personally seen the need to be more commercially tuned and have broad end to end (back office, supply chain, HR, legal, marketing etc.) knowledge of the business and the industry in which we operate in. This will include being aware of competitor activities. The modern day CFO is really the co-pilot to the CEO.

With tough competition in applying to jobs in finance, how can candidates stand out against their peers?  

They need to clearly identify and define their unique selling point (USP) - be it, IT, experiences they gained while in University - internships. No doubt millennials are more tech savvy, but I still believe the soft / people interactive skills are still relevant and important. Continue to be inquisitive and have the thirst for knowledge.

Finally, what advice do you have to a junior in finance about the journey of a financial professional?

Firstly, have a goal and/or ambition. Once that has been established, speak to a coach or mentor who can perhaps shape that goal to then create the necessary building blocks to help the junior on their finance journey. E.g. if a junior finance professional aspired to one day be a CFO then in my mind, the following experiences are necessary - commercial finance, governance, FP&A, international experiences and cross industry experiences.