Date posted: 7/03/2018 5 min read

8 tips for finance professionals to tackle tech head on

Adopting new technologies is the biggest business challenge facing today’s finance leaders. Survey by Hays reveals key challenges faced by finance leaders and solutions for finance professionals

In brief

  • According to a survey of 374 finance leaders conducted by Hays, the biggest challenge facing them is adopting new technologies
  • 50% of survey respondents said cyber security will become most important in their role
  • Tackling tech trends head on is a must for finance to stay relevant

With the fourth industrial revolution on our doorstep it’s not surprising technology is causing concern for finance leaders. Many leaders are asking themselves: How can we prepare for digital disruption? How do we keep up-to-date and embrace new technology? And how do we upskill ourselves and our teams to stay relevant?

David Cawley, Regional Director at Hays provided insights from their survey What’s Challenging Today’s Finance Leaders? The survey of 374 finance leaders revealed 6 key concerns of today’s finance leaders, with technology as the number one.

  1. Adopting new technologies 45%
  2. Economic environment 40%
  3. Skills and knowledge gaps in teams 39%
  4. Managing risk 38%
  5. Company culture 31%
  6. Business partnering with other functions 31%

8 ways finance leaders can harness technology

The survey uncovered how finance leaders adopt new technologies to be more effective in their roles.

  1. Establish close links to the IT department: the finance leaders from the survey think it is the finance and IT departments’ combined responsibility to keep up to date on new technologies. Finance leaders should co-operate and meet regularly with IT leaders to discuss the latest trends and issues.
  2. Be adaptable: challenge the status quo and be open to considering and testing new technologies that can significantly improve your role and the finance function. Common tools to leverage include cloud based portals and business intelligence tools.
    Being adaptable resonates strongly with Cawley, who commented “if there’s one thing a career in recruitment has challenged me to do, it’s to feel extremely comfortable with change and be ready to adapt. After all, you can only play the hand you are dealt.”
  3. Harness data: business intelligence tools create more efficiency and consistency when it comes to dashboards, processes, use of data and real-time reporting. One interviewee said they are now able to create dashboards geared towards non-finance staff so they can more easily understand and interpret data.
    Cawley commented that data security is something Hays are very serious about, and “an accountant no longer presents data to an audience then clocks off. The data must be information. The expectation is that analysis is made and value added. Accounting isn’t debit and credits, it’s coupling with the business to add value.”
  4. Prevention is the best cure for cyber attacks: fifty percent of survey respondents said cyber security will become most important in their roles. Cawley believes this is because cyber-attacks are on the rise, and like a virus they continue to change, making them difficult to prevent. As a result, “the demand for cyber security professionals or those who have skills in the area is high.” Crawley commented that “Those who are solutions focused can anticipate potential threats and come up with ways to prevent cybercrime are in most demand.”
    Establishing robust IT security measures to protect company and customer data has become an absolute priority. Preventing cyber-attacks rather than fighting them off as they occur is the best approach to managing, assessing and combating risk.
  5. Upskilling: continuous upskilling is an essential requirement in response to rapid technological advances, which will continue to change the competencies required to do our jobs. Finance leaders should not only consider upskilling themselves but their teams too. For example accepting on-the-job stretch opportunities such as involvement in tasks or projects outside one’s usual remit.
  6. Actively immerse yourself: keep up to date with new technologies by attending industry events, proactively keep abreast online and with tech news, attend technology related webinars and talk to others in the industry. You could even go so far as getting involved with tech start-ups. Consider if you are in a position to consult and offer pro bono advice in exchange for the opportunity to get involved with new tech ventures.
  7. Turn threats into opportunities: technology and automation can help us do our jobs better and faster but people can never be entirely replaced despite what the doomsayers proclaim, Cawley believes. Automation will create the need for a whole new set of skills and new job roles will arise in order for accountants to manage and oversee automated processes. Cawley encourages finance professionals to embrace the potential opportunities and be prepared.
  8. Embrace disruption: Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to become more important as organisations experiment with new software. Already the banking sector is facing block chain technology and crypto currencies, whilst AI is being used to analyse and predict trends in data, and the possibilities of machine learning are being examined. Whatever the future holds, the consensus is that the finance industry will always require emotional intelligence with relationships built on trust and human interaction.

How technology helps recruiters and job seekers

Cawley commented that Hays has embraced new technology by implementing a new recruitment model defined as ‘Find & Engage’. This way of recruiting combines the best practice recruitment techniques with new opportunities presented by digital technology, data science and machine learning.

“The idea is that organisations will be able to tap into a wide pool of passive candidates, not just active job seekers.”

Cawley’s role as a leader in a large solutions based business presents the challenge of how to find, engage, train, develop and inspire others to manage their business offering. From a recruiter’s perspective his advice to job seekers in a competitive market is:

“Differentiate your offering so it removes a challenge for your client in a way which is unrivalled and better than the client can do themselves.”

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