FDs and the future of finance

FINANCE CHIEFS have one foot in the future and one in the past. Or that was my reading of a roundtable convened by recruiter Badenoch & Clark earlier this week.

About 15 FDs and financial planning pros surrounded a table in deepest Buckinghamshire to discuss the future of finance and the role of the financial professional, in what turned out to be a lively and thoughtful debate.

What is commerciality and do FDs have the right skills to drive success? were among the toothsome topics. Attendees from Santander, Network Rail and others had a lot to say.

Soft skills were in high demand – communication, initiative, and a willingness to “stick your head above the parapet” – were among the coveted attributes, and delegates bemoaned a dearth in today’s accountancy talent pool.

For this reason, several had looked beyond traditional qualified number crunchers, hiring people from marketing and elsewhere to fill mid-level finance roles.

No matter how enthusiastic FDs were about these ‘outside the box’ accountants, they unanimously declared no employee would rise to the top without a full institute qualification.

This dichotomy characterised much of their thinking. Eager to hire bright young things who don’t fit into the financial accountant mould, but hesitant to stray too far from traditional calculator-wielding techies.

When asked about their challenges over the next 12 months, the finance chiefs showed how divergent their roles are.

Some were still fire-fighting, intent on cutting costs and dragging their business into the black. Some were already enjoying the first signs of flowering, positioning themselves for post-crunch growth and seeking funding for global expansion.

Still more were struggling to shore up motivation among over-worked staff bowed by the ongoing threat of redundancy, while one was focusing on decentralisation to unlock future success.

It is clear that challenges lie ahead and perhaps awareness is the first part of the puzzle, but FDs and their ilk have much to do if they are to position themselves and their teams for a bright, business-forward future.

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