5 competencies Finance Professionals should have, but don't!Updated on January 3, 2018 // Created on May 28, 2014
"Technically skilled accountants are 'ten-to-a-penny'" explains Jeffrey C Thomson President and CEO of IMA. For those none-native English speakers 'ten-to-a-penny' means there are lots and as such they don't have much value.
So how do you go from being a 'ten-to-a-penny' finance or accounting professional that can't compete in the job market to being the shiny gold coin that everyone wants, no NEEDS to hire
It is now a well-known fact that the finance and accounting profession is suffering from a competency crisis globally and that the UAE is proving to be experiencing it more heavily than most. The impact is colossal and is currently slowing down both the growth of individual companies but also the growth of entire economies. So much so that there is now a website dedicated to this problem and it is worth a look: http://competencycrisis.org/
Fundamentally, the speed at which this sector is progressing is far out-pacing the speed of the development within the workforce. Government regulation, technological innovation and globalization pose new challenges and threats to the profession, and there are simply not enough qualified professionals to handle these issues effectively.
Why the competency crisis could be good for you
It is very simple, if you are looking to get ahead of the curve and be in serious consideration for some of the more senior positions available, all you need to do is make sure you have more of the competencies that are currently lacking. It is not often that an entire sector or profession can categorically say "this is what is lacking, so get it and there will be a job for you". The crisis is so severe and the companies so desperate for talent, that they will consider anyone with an edge. All you need to do is get the edge…and then tell the companies you have it and wait for the job offers to come in!!!
What is the 'edge'?
Getting the 'edge' is easier than you might think and with a little careful planning, personal (or corporate) investment, some hard-work and commitment you'll have a great deal more to offer than your competition and will be exponentially more valuable (Pst! That means higher compensation by the way!)
David A Garvin of Harvard Business School explains it very eloquently:
"In a world of unrelenting change, about the only sustainable advantage is learning. Competitors can copy your products, duplicate your technology and replicate your processes, but as long as your organization is learning faster than theirs, you will always remain ahead"
There are many professional certificates to consider and if you are in the UAE, the good news is there are some great course providers who can help you succeed in acquiring these.
Examples to consider are listed here and many can be found on Laimoon:
CIMA (coming soon to Laimoon)
ACA (coming soon to Laimoon)
Top companies value these certificates:
"At Microsoft, we look for a combination of solid accounting skills , the ability to think strategically, and strong business ethics. If someone is a CMA, we can be more comfortable that the person has mastered these aspects of the profession." Bob Laux (CMA, CPA), Director of Technical Accounting and Reporting
Forecasting (planning, analysis and risk management)
Technically skilled accountants can crunch some numbers and produce some analysis on what has already occurred; this is a basic expectation of the role. What businesses now need and what is so desperately missing in individuals who can take those numbers and make predictions based on them, forecast problems, anticipate risk factors that will implicate them and make plans to ensure the company's finances hold firm during the tricky periods. It reminds me of the 2011 film 'Margin Call' when the young graduate ironically completes a project from the Head of Risk Management who has just been made redundant. The graduate discovers that the company is in serious financial trouble if they continue as they are. It is incident this that acts as the catalyst for the recent financial crisis. Remember what I said about the impact the competency crisis is having on individual businesses as well as entire economies? That Head of Risk Management was probably the most valuable member of the entire company and they made him redundant because they thought everything was fine.
The mistakes that were made and the lessons that have been learnt in recent years have made companies far more vigilant and considerably more aware of their vulnerability and they are now seeking to protect themselves from similar situations, but they need 'forecasters' to achieve that.
At present Laimoon is not aware of courses focusing solely on forecasting in the UAE, but a brief search on google demonstrates there is some focus on this in the UK at present. There are however, Financial Risk Management (FRM) courses, there's also Fraud and Laundering courses which may prove useful.
Written and spoken English (and Arabic)
English continues to dominate the language requirement worldwide and even here in the GCC, but some companies insist on Arabic too.
Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey and Co-founder of HireArt echoes my sentiment in a New York Times interview from May 2014;
"What surprises me most about people's skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can't get the basics right, there is a real problem."
And don't think that just because you are a Native English speaker that you 'cut the mustard' either. It staggers me how often I see simple spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes in CV's, covering letters, emails, LinkedIn profiles etc etc. Graduates who don't know their there from their they're or event their their!
I know that this issue is particularly heightened within native Arabic speakers too, who are not able to write the very language they were raised on. For those new to Arabic, acquiring some basic conversational phrases would prove very valuable.
Investing some time here would be a very wise, short-term, low-cost and high ROI commitment that comes highly recommended for all. You can find a whole range of English and Arabic courses on Laimoon's Language section.
If you want to progress from accountant or financial analyst etc to a management position you need to develop some management skills and techniques. In management you will not only be responsible for managing projects, but more importantly the people who will deliver on those projects. That means developing your skills in delegation, time management, communication and also gaining an understanding of basic HR protocol that you will be responsible for. Simply being an excellent number cruncher is not going to get you to the next level of your career. You now need to step away from your comfort zone and develop the 'soft skills' that support your hard knowledge and expertise. If you can't do that you will do more damage than good and but your career at risk. You need to move from being an introvert to being an extrovert and that is not easy and for many does not come naturally. Laimoon recommends you browse our management courses as well as our personal development courses, where you can find loads to help you move to the next step. You may also want to ask for a review with your line manager who will be able to give you indicators of the skills you are lacking at present.
Often confused with management, leadership is actually a very different body of knowledge and finance leaders are particularly rare and hard to find. Leaders know how to build and grow effective teams. They know how to empower those teams with a common vision and make everyone feel an important part of achieving that vision. They also need to lead not only their own direct reports, but also the company as a whole, which means taking the time to get to know the employees in every department, gain their trust and confidence and have them all working towards the same key goals. They need to be confident to make HR decisions about moving skills and resources around to gain the most from each employee.
Jeffrey C Thomson has written an excellent article called "Financial Leadership; What's it all about?" which comes highly recommended and paints a very clear picture of what a finance leader looks like.
Once you have decided that you want to make that leap from manger to leader, you should consider taking some courses in leadership that will provide you with a great foundation on which to build your leadership experience. Laimoon has an array of leadership courses you can take in the UAE.
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