In recent years, advances in technology, the proliferation of big data, and underlying market conditions have elevated the finance function to become the strategic heartbeat of any business. The role of finance teams has grown, and as such, the skills sets of commercial accountants have widened significantly. They are now expected to have a key, active role in strategic, commercial decision-making that will have a genuine impact on an organisation.
The strategy element has brought a whole sub-set of business management and commercially focused skills required, to complement the core accounting and finance knowledge any commercial accountant should already have. Below, we look at some of the key areas where any candidate will need to excel if they have what it takes to become a top commercial accountant.
- Communication skills – it may sound obvious and is a frequently seen must-have criteria for plenty of jobs, but the key role for a commercial accountant is communicating sensitive financial information internally to non-finance stakeholders. Enabling managers to make vital decisions based on the information you convey demands the very best communication skills
- Adaptability – the world of finance is in almost constant flux due to compliance and regulation changes, as well as the increasing role of new technology. Staying ahead of the curve and changing with the times is crucial.
- I.T. expertise – every credible accountant today needs to be I.T. literate, embracing technology to improve systems, processes and delivery of results.
- Confidence – the days of the reclusive bean counter are over with commercial accountants needing to be influential enough to argue their case and convince decision makers to make the right calls.
- Strong technical grounding – candidates who have worked in Financial Accounting or have an Audit background understand what their commercial decisions mean and what impact they have on the P&L. Important for those keen to progress up the career ladder to Finance Director or CFO one day.
These soft skills will be underpinned by strength in a number of key areas where judgement and problem solving skills will also come into play. We are currently seeing demand in:
- Risk management
- Financial modelling
- Financial planning
The commercial aspect of the role means that a broad knowledge of current market conditions, as well as the company’s sector and competitors’ performance are valuable. Analysing data and modelling solutions have limited value if they have no frame of reference to those outside of the finance team. Being able to add context to results positions the commercial accountant as a key player in the future of any organisation.