New world, new skills finance professionals need

By McKenna Sawchak posted 02-21-2022 13:21

New world, new skills finance professionals need 
Barry Payne Director

External Relations — Management Accountant

We live in a new world. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, digital transformation and new ways of working were significantly influencing the skills and capabilities finance teams needed to succeed. As the pandemic accelerated the need for these skillsets, people and businesses sought digital experiences and solutions more than ever.

In the world of finance there is also a new mandate for finance professionals to become a true value partner to the business. In other words, spending more time looking through the windshield than the rearview mirror.

With these changes in mind, we have researched the key skills and competencies necessary for success and built the T-Shaped Finance Professional below, based on conversations with CFOs and business leaders worldwide. The T-Shaped model is a great basis to evaluate your skills and those of your team. It demonstrates the new and enhanced skills that are built on top of the deep technical accounting and data skills in the traditional finance / accounting background. The key to the T is deep technical accounting and industry knowledge with a wide set of horizontal boundary-crossing skills.

Key skills include:

Digital skills and knowledge of transformative technology
We’ve all had a crash course in working side by side with new technologies over the past couple of years. As organizations’ data has moved to the cloud and month-end closes have become automated, finance has had to get familiar with technologies such as robotic process automation, blockchain and data analytics applications.

Organizations have fast-tracked digital transformations to protect and serve customers in many ways and adapt to new business models. Building skills to support this rapid transformation and being able to use technologies will put you in a great position.

Synthesize intelligence into insight
If working side by side with technology is important, the ability to use the tools and data at your disposal to affect decisions is even more critical.

“We need to be able to tell the story in a more convincing and succinct way,” the finance leader of a Fortune 500 manufacturing services company told me recently. After he grappled with how to make strides in digital finance transformation, he spent time with his business and finance team to effectively change their management reporting from thousands of pages of information to a set of dashboards.

This reporting change was difficult because it forced a new way of working and of thinking, both in terms of how data is generated and the ability to present that data in a meaningful way.

Ability to communicate and think critically
Never underestimate the power of effective storytelling. You can uncover the best insights, but if your audience doesn’t understand your point, it’s moot.

Strong communication and critical-thinking skills, the ability to ask the right questions and to guide good and considered decision-making, are invaluable for finance professionals. If the ability to leverage technology and a deep understanding of the business support these skills, you have a powerful combination to lead your business.

Ability to be agile and unlearn what you know
Agility is the most important skill of them all.

“Agility is about how flexible we can make an organization, a process or even an individual,” said a CFO of a global gas manufacturer and supplier. Pace is about “how quickly we can remove constraints and adjust processes to create impact.” Pace is a great skill to master and one that will give you multiple career options.

Do not forget - a mastery of the basics and your functional expertise
Mastery and expertise are the spine of our T-Shaped finance professional.

Mastery of technical skills is essential to ensure upskilling in the latest technical accounting and finance areas. We may need to unlearn or relearn some of the concepts we studied many years ago.

Prime candidates are approaches to risk management and scenario planning, which have been turned on their heads over the last couple of years.

Key questions to consider
As you reflect on these skills, consider these questions to discuss with your teams and your leaders:

  • How has the pandemic changed your thinking on how you develop yourself and your people?
  • What critical competencies do you require to meet your business priorities now and in the future?
  • How do you align roles and ways of working to these critical competencies?
  • How can you engage your colleagues in initial conversations to validate your understanding?


  • McKinsey & Company offers six steps to reskilling and shares strategies to building a “no-regrets” skill set. This is a useful toolkit no matter how an employee’s specific role may evolve.
  • Take a look at the CGMA Competency Framework to help guide a structured conversation on learning.
  • Programs such as the CGMA® Finance Leadership Program help develop co-piloting competencies. The program’s online, personalized learning experience helps finance professionals develop the necessary digital, technical, business, leadership and people skills.
  • AICPA & CIMA delighted to partner with Beta Gamma Sigma. We will be providing insights into the world of business, finance and accounting and tips on how to grow your career and skills, and those of your colleagues. To learn more about AICPA & CIMA and how you can develop your digital skill sets at a 20% discount, click here.

Barry Payne, CPA, CGMA, Director, External Relations — Management Accountant, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Barry Payne
Barry Payne is the Director, External Relations at AICPA & CIMA. In this role, he serves as a liaison to CFOs and CEOs to understand how finance teams are evolving and explore the skills, competencies and mindsets that are emerging and important. Barry is responsible for building and strengthening relationships with employers and elevating awareness of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.

Through working in various consulting and education roles, Barry brings extensive experience of helping companies build sustainable talent development programs to help finance professionals create more value for their organizations.

Barry is a UK chartered accountant and currently based in London, UK.