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17 Competencies Your Team Will Need

The work required of the finance function is changing; the skills of its employees need to change too

The work corporate finance teams are being asked to do has changed markedly in the past five years. The finance competencies that underpinned success 10 years ago are not ones that will help the company differentiate itself from competitors either now or certainly five years from now (see chart 1).

But unfortunately, as chart 1 shows, there is often a gap between the competencies required, and what most finance teams are good at.

For example, there is now a high demand for finance employees with the ability to create meaningful insights from a mass of data, and the skills to get the most from new technology, but only 18% of all finance employees were rated as effective at “insight generation,” and only 17% of employees were considered effective at core finance IT competencies.


The progression of finance competencies

Chart 1: The progression of finance competencies  Source: CEB analysis


Emerging Competencies

As senior finance managers move into 2016, they should try to develop a range of new competencies. This list of 17 is a good starting point.

  1. Business navigation: Those with business navigation skills understand that to get things done you have to work with formal and informal networks. These individuals are able to work well with other functions and are able to simplify complex processes.

  2. Social intelligence: As Finance provides more guidance to business partners, the best finance employees are those who are able to connect well with others, use their interactions to influence stakeholders, and demonstrate a high level of diplomacy.

  3. Virtual collaboration: As companies become more global, it’s critical that finance employees know how to both work and communicate while based in different locations.

  4. Cross-cultural awareness: Diverse teams have a competitive advantage since they offer different perspectives, skills, and experience. But this also has the potential to create tension: those who are able to understand the nuances that engage different groups (being able to talk about the NFL and cricket, say) will be valuable to finance teams.

  5. Business translation: Finance needs its employees to be able to highlight the key conclusions of its analyses or clarify insights as well as correct erroneous assumptions.

  6. Evidence structuring: Finance staffers increasingly need to be able to prioritize data sources, assumptions, and hypotheses quickly and take into account a wide range of factors, including interpersonal and organizational ones.

  7. Business functional fluency: Not only does Finance have its own “language,” but so does every function. Having a knowledge of these “business languages” and being able to translate them into sensible, everyday language will bolster everyone’s understanding of the situation.

  8. Business teaching and training: Finance needs employees who can efficiently and accurately teach financial concepts to business partners.

  9. IT innovation: Not only should employees be up to date with finance technology, but they should also be able to analyze potential IT opportunities and quantify potential savings and places where innovation added value.

  10. IT fulfilment: Finance also needs employees who are able to evaluate IT systems based on larger organizational needs and identify the root cause of any inefficiencies they find.

  11. Vendor management: Finance needs employees who can manage productive vendor relationships while adhering to budget restrictions and deadlines.

  12. Business coordination: This refers to an employee’s ability to connect various functions’ priorities to Finance’s strategic plan.

  13. Continuous improvement and best practice implementation: Employees should be always looking for a way to do things better and identifying best practices elsewhere in the company, and outside.

  14. Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurs are able to evaluate and take the proper risks, accept failure as a potential outcome, and spot new ideas and opportunities outside conventional approaches.

  15. Focus and direction: Simply knowing what is and is not important to success is half the battle. Employees with this skill are able to communicate these priorities to their teams.

  16. Cross-functional expertise: Finance needs employees with the ability to work across functions and who have a broader understanding of other business data, trends, motivations, and processes.

  17. Customer management: Being overwhelmed by tedious, and low-value tasks can distract Finance from more important work. Having people who are able to help internal customers self-serve, and who understand when and how to “say no” to business requests is critical to day-to-day operational success.

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