According to Financial Executives International,
“[two years ago] 78 percent of CFOs considered proficiency in Excel as the most important skill for their FP&A teams. Only 5 percent feel the same today. Instead, CFOs rated adaptability to new technologies as the top skill for new hires.”
Technology is changing everything. It’s changing traditional jobs, creating new roles, and ushering in the need for updated skillsets- including for current FP&A professionals. According to the Hackett Group’s 2018 Digital Skills Poll, finance is way behind the curve when it comes to evolving talent requirements, and it doesn’t currently seem to have an established method of tracking trends in supply and demand.
Today, FP&A employees need to embrace new skills that once simply didn’t exist, or run the risk of being out-skilled by younger, newer hires. Enter the era of the fintech professional – individuals that have strong backgrounds in finance, technology, and IT. While today this knowledge is highly appreciated, in the not so distant future we’ll see it shift from appreciated to required. We should expect to see the role and composition of FP&A positions dramatically changing in just a few short years. Back-end skills required will undoubtedly change. More data scientists and individuals capable of analytical thinking will be necessary, and we’ll see former finance superstars become outdated.
In an EY survey of finance leaders, nearly 8 in 10 respondents said they do not believe they are equipped with the necessary skills to meet the demands of their jobs in 10 years. This should serve as an urgent wake-up call, loudly yelling out for desperately needed upskilling.
Since this is the case, we’ve decided to cover FP&A’s technical skills of the future. If you want to make yourself an attractive employee and ensure you don’t go out-of-date, consider picking up one of the skills we cover below. To stay relevant in the world of FP&A, here are the tools and skills that can help you get there, and stay there.
“More companies and job descriptions will ask for big data [and] modelling experience in job descriptions for finance” - Geetanjali Tandon, AFP FP&A Advisory Council, Digital & IT Transformation Finance Lead at Bayer Crop Science
Data and technology acumen= the key to professional survival
Ideally, FP&A professionals should feel comfortable with large volumes of data, understand how data is structured, comprehend how integration occurs, and be able to effectively use multiple systems including cloud applications.
Programming ability The ability to do some minimal coding or understand what is necessary to use a system in order to improve processes with different technologies is an asset. The most relevant coding languages for FP&A professionals are:
Since Fintech employees are of increasing demand, here are the programming languages relevant per role:
Blockchain experts and developers: C, C++, Java
App developers: C#, C++, Java, Python
· Data science toolkits: R, Python, Weka, NumPy, MatLab
· Data visualisation tools: D3.js, ggplot
· Proficiency in using query languages: SQL, Hive, Pig
· NoSQL databases: MongoDB, Cassandra, HBase
There are plenty of online learning platforms that make picking up coding languages accessible and fun. One such platform is Coursera, which offers classes ranging from “Python for Everybody” to “Modern Big Data Analysis with SQL.” All you have to do is set aside some time and come with an open mind.
Data visualization and analytical skills
Big data tools carry out data analyses in order to extract insights from large datasets. FP&A professionals can benefit greatly from interpreting their data using visualizations. Learning how to use leading analytics tools can help you develop your visualization and analytics skills.
One visualization tool you should familiarize yourself with is Power BI. A business analytics tool by Microsoft, Power BI provides interactive visualizations to help departments create reports and dashboards. Present to management all the latest financial reports so they can make the best, most informed decisions.
Consider checking out Udemy’s Microsoft Power BI introduction class to learn about the platform and familiarize yourself with its features.
Familiarity with technologies
To increase their worth in the market, FP&A professionals should be familiar with a range of technologies that are relevant in the industry. Such technologies include SPSS, Excel, SQL, SAS, R, MatLab, Linux, Hadoop, etc. Combined with financial acumen, familiarity with these technologies is a huge advantage for FP&A professionals.
Additionally, increasing reliance on automation has prompted more hiring managers to look for financial professionals with the right IT skills to leverage new financial systems. Candidates who can demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in areas such as predictive analytics or accounts payable automation will find themselves in demand.
According to KPMG, “what has not changed, is the fundamental role of finance. Finance still needs to provide insight to the rest of the organisation, ensure effective control and risk management and drive its own and the organisation's efficiency...these objectives [are expected] to remain the same. What will be different, however, is the proportion of time and effort spent on each and how they will be delivered.”
An automation platform that greatly improves the way FP&A professionals work is DataRails. DataRails removes the drudgery from traditionally manual processes by automatically consolidating Excel-based data. This saves tons of time previously wasted on tedious, manual work. Impress management with superb insights by maximizing time spent on analyzing the numbers, instead of wasting time putting them together.
“Automation will continue to allow finance and FP&A professionals to truly rethink how they do work, to spend less time on routine and repetitive, manually-intensive type work, and free up more time for them to serve as valued business partners. And finance professionals will continue to need to be adaptable, flexible, and upskill in terms of analytical skills and technology savvy. But there are so many resources out there to help that this should not be a time for worry or fear, it instead should be thought of as a time of great opportunity for those professionals who believe in lifelong learning.”
- Rachele Collins, Ph.D., Principal Research Lead, APQC