recruitmentThe vast majority of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) looking to appoint new staff for their businesses believe it is important for each potential employee to have both a breadth and depth of finance expertise and capabilities, a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals.

Called The Complete Finance Professional: Why breadth and depth of finance capability matter in today’s finance function, the report gathers together existing evidence about the role of the 21st century accountant. It also outlines why broad-based finance qualifications remain valuable in economically turbulent times.

For the report, ACCA surveyed nearly 500 CFOs in the UK, Malaysia, Russia, China and the UAE, asking them a series of questions about what was important to them when it comes to appointing newly qualified accountants; what gives them confidence in their new hires; and what skills enable them to grow their business, particularly since the financial crisis.

Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA, says: “Our research shows that recruiters are looking to appoint the complete finance professional, and seek out newly qualified accountants who have breadth and depth of skills. ACCA’s view is that the environment in which finance professionals now work requires them to bring a broader range of finance skills to the table. Finance functions now have to be excellent in a wide range of capabilities, from supporting businesses to managing risk, developing effective strategies for growth, driving financial insight, continuing to maintain appropriate levels of control across the organisation as well as ensuring its statutory and regulatory responsibilities are met.”

Helen Brand added: “More than 80% of respondents said a complete understanding of the finance value chain – from budgeting to external reporting – and how all this fits together, was critical. The finance team has to meet the challenges posed by a post-crisis global economy which is increasingly volatile, complex and competitive – and given the breadth of financial activities that finance leaders are now engaged in, it is hardly surprising that they are looking to recruit employees with a broad range of skills and understanding.”

Key findings from the 500 global finance professionals surveyed for inclusion in this new report show:

• The importance of newly qualified finance professionals having a good working knowledge of different finance areas also resulted in high scores for each subject – for instance, 96% said newly qualified finance professionals should know about financial management; and 94% said it was important to have a good understanding of professionalism and ethics. Management skills scored 73% while stakeholder relationship management came lower down the ranking at 68%, possibly because CFOs responsible for hiring would see this as a development for the future.

• The most beneficial grounding to help a newly qualified finance professional on the path to being a future leader was a full appreciation of financial and management accounting, at 61%, with 17% saying a strong strategic focus was also an excellent grounding.

• 89% said that understanding the links between all areas of finance enabled recruits to minimise future financial risks and 88% said it also enabled them to deal with financial challenges. 80% said it would enable their new recruit to take their career in any direction they chose.

• When it comes to sustainable business growth, 76% said it ‘really adds value to their business’ for their finance professionals to have the complete finance knowledge and skills set, from both financial and strategic management accounting.

Helen Brand concludes: “The need for finance staff to have a broad range of skills and expertise throughout the finance value chain is of prime importance to CFOs – and is therefore of equal importance to individuals looking to plan their careers and maximise their employability. Traditional career routes within the finance function are changing – we are seeing new types of finance roles emerging for example in shared services or global business service operations. In an annual survey of employers we conducted last year, nearly 90% of employers said the ACCA Qualification was relevant to all employment sectors; this confirms our belief that ACCA offers a relevant qualification that meets the needs of business, individuals and employers to ensure that we develop the complete finance professional capable of achieving strategic roles in business.”

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