Accountancy skills for the digital era

Growing legislation is making accountancy an increasingly technical and specialist profession.

In turn, this is making certain finance roles much more challenging to recruit for.

As the competition for qualified accountants has risen, so too has their salary and candidates’ expectations. A recent survey found that the most significant payroll salary increases were in Wales, where some executive role salaries increased by up to 25% in 2018 compared with the UK average of 12%.

This is why financial specialists with a professional qualification, specifically ACA, ACCA or CIMA, and the right soft skills, are like gold-dust.

Recruiting financial professionals who can help you navigate the digital era is a speciality in itself, largely because many are not actively looking for a role and require a more proactive, less target-driven approach to be recruited.

Getting the recruitment process right has never been more important. But what skills should you be looking for?

sought after accountancy skills

1. Consultative

Working in finance is about much more than numbers these days. Accountants are now increasingly required to partner with other business functions and build relationships directly with clients.  A change that has largely been brought about by digital developments.

Take the recent introduction of Making Tax Digital, a government initiative designed to make the administration of tax more efficient, effective and accurate.

The implementation by accountancy firms of bridging technology to integrate their HMRC and client records has not been without its challenges. By freeing up time and reducing paperwork, their roles have not only become more technical, but more advisory too.

The real-time nature of financial services has turned traditional accountancy on its head, opening up opportunities for financial professionals to be more involved in business development and have a direct impact on profitability. To do this efficiently, they must now be great with both numbers and people.

2. Strategic

With FinTech creating so much potential, financial professionals are now expected to take on a more strategic and innovative role than they may have traditionally trained for.

Used to doing things ‘by the book’, accountants are now being encouraged to challenge the status quo and to come up with new ideas and solutions. This requires creative thinking, the ability to reflect and the desire to problem-solve. Without these skills, it’s unlikely they will reap the organisational benefits of the new advisory role discussed above.

This ability to see the bigger picture is a vital skill for modern financial professionals and while there’s a lot to be said for experience, a professional accountancy qualification can provide a great foundation in strategy.

3. Industry experience

When it comes to specific sectors like manufacturing, hands on experience of cost-pricing products and so on is often a top priority for employers. But what’s more important in a profession that is in constant flux is an accountancy professional who keeps up to date with what’s happening in the industry – it is they who will be prepared for the next big change.

If they have good commercial awareness and are able to consider the wider financial position of the business so much the better.

4. Transparency

Ethical standards in finance have never been more under the spotlight. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, financial services has ranked as the least trusted industry in the world for the past five years. The most trusted? Technology.

Digitally-savvy financial professionals are now harnessing people’s trust of technology to give businesses and their clients greater confidence in decision-making. Building a financial team who can be open and provide transparent insights which challenge the perception of distrust will mean your organisation is both more reputable and successful.

5. Professional qualification

With the essential skills above in place, we’ve seen how in-house training can be used very successfully to upskill accountancy professionals on specific digital changes, technical skills and new regulations. What’s more challenging is developing fundamental accountancy knowledge.

This is something James Poyser, CEO of inniAccounts, agrees with. In a recent article he went so far as to say that finding someone with knowledge in accountancy and skills in digital transformation is near impossible, explaining:

“There is the option to find people with digital transformation skills and then teach them the domain knowledge. Yet we’ve found that firstly, not everyone wants to become an accountant, and secondly, when you’re competing to recruit against every sort of digital business it soon becomes hugely costly and time-consuming to get someone to the point where they are delivering real value for clients.”

Having ACA, ACCA or CIMA- qualified financial professionals with the right experience and skillset on your team doesn’t just make good business sense; it gives you peace of mind too. But it can be challenging for organisations to invest in the required approach and time.

Fortunately, we at Sitka are great at finding financial professionals with the right blend of experience and qualifications.

If you’re ready to recruit the next member of your finance team, please contact us today.