Overcoming the biggest challenges facing today’s finance directors


The role of finance director has changed radically over the past few years. This is not only due to economic instability and evolving technologies, but also thanks to the shifting attitudes in society and how they impact business.

Nowhere has this shift been felt more keenly than within accountancy and finance recruitment. We have witnessed the increased responsibilities of modern CFOs and while many of these changes are positive, they offer intense new challenges.

Overcoming these difficulties is what separates good finance directors from great ones. Since BTG Recruitment is in the business of only recruiting the best candidates, it is essential to analyse these new obstacles to offer sound career advice.

1) Productivity and efficiency

Maintaining productivity and efficiency is not strictly a new challenge, but an increasingly digital world has required finance directors to gain new skills to adequately deliver productivity from their teams.

Cloud computing, big data and financial automation have made much of the day to day jobs of your finance team easier, yet a consequence is that finance directors must be far more tech-savvy and make tough tech investment decisions.

In accountancy and finance recruitment, we know good employees are highly data-driven decision makers. This is a core skill of the field, but today’s directors must have a wider understanding of automation tools and be able to make decisions to introduce those modern technologies with limited data.

New financial tech often lacks data-driven results (by virtue of being new) and embracing them comes with risk.

The most important career advice for finance directors in the modern world is to widen their technical knowledge and risk assessment skills. The best financial leaders can balance data-driven decision making with brave strategic decisions and have enough technical understanding to ensure those are worthwhile investments.

2) Communicating with other departments

The role of finance director is becoming more technically focused, nevertheless, soft skills remain equally vital. It is not simply a matter of being socially talented, but rather seeing diplomatic communication as a strategic necessity. The best finance director understands the required finesse when it comes to communicating with other departments versus communicating with the board or your own staff.

Interdepartmental communication is one of the biggest worries for CEOs and MDs because poor communication can result in the most failures to deliver results. This has always been true, but we are simply hearing more about it as competition continues to increase and companies analyse any potential weaknesses.

Finance directors need to not only have excellent management skills, financial acumen and technological awareness, but the ability to communicate effectively with those in completely different disciplines.

3) Diversifying your finance team

This is probably one of the most pressing modern challenges for finance directors. Unfortunately, finance remains a heavily male-dominated field.

The financial industry is under pressure to address stereotypes of being a predominantly straight, white and male space. While this new challenge can be stressful, it is not all doom and gloom. Diversifying your workforce can improve your team’s performance with new skills and insights.

Creating that diversity is not easy. Only 25% of senior management roles are held by women in the UK, with just 21% of company leaders being female (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/international-womens-day-women-leadership-bosses-gender-pay-gap-jobs-a6919316.html). In finance, demand for more women is especially high, particularly within financial advice and fintech (https://centsai.com/expert-blogs/why-your-firm-needs-to-be-attracting-more-women-advisors/, http://uk.businessinsider.com/stats-on-gender-balance-in-uk-fintech-sector-71-male-2017-9).

It is not just gender equality that is needed, as businesses look to address racial diversity and employ more LGBT people into senior financial roles.

There are several ways finance directors can achieve this. Blind vetting in the hiring process can work towards eliminating subconscious bias in the preliminary stages of recruitment but does not go far enough. Relying solely on big data and automation processes in hiring has been shown to solve certain diversity problems but cause others.

Affirmative hiring has been the way forward for many and is utilised by major brands, such as Google. It involves setting specific targets for your workforce diversity e.g. making at least 30% of all senior financial staff female.

However, the most effective directors know that achieving real diversity means addressing issues at their source. Choosing your current female, BME and LGBT employees to lead hiring panels and investing in attracting and supporting candidates from these demographics will provide more stable, long-term diversity for your finance department.

4) Being a mentor in your department

Effective communication alone is not enough to provide support for your team. Being a high achieving leader means balancing methodical and analytical skills with support and nurturing.

You will hear much talk from accountancy and finance recruitment firms about “ambition”, “control”, “sound judgement” and “analytical aptitude”, but there are other traits that matter just as much when it comes to leading a team: kindness and patience. Balancing these with more industry specialist skills is the key to helping your team outperform expectations.

Investing in training to help your team develop their skills is a good step. Top finance directors will go further and look to reduce micromanaging and other oppressive behaviours to empower their staff.

As leading experts in accountancy and finance recruitment, BTG Recruitment keeps our finger on the pulse of evolving trends for the top financial roles. Our recruitment firm has cultivated unrivalled ability when building credible finance teams and improving diversity. To see how we could help place you in your perfect role call 0115 960 7000 or 0161 214 3840 now.

Click here to download your free guide “The 6 Step System to Finding Your Perfect Accountancy Role”.

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