What are some of the emerging roles in the new finance workforce?
FINANCE has traditionally been quite an important role in the business, helping decisionmakers make more sense of their incomes, expenses, and overall margins.
Although the role was originally limited to accounting and tax, finance professionals in large organizations deal with a lot more — including supporting business managers with cost-benefit analyses of proposed projects, managing budgets, and voting on long-term investment decisions.
In the digital age, as the volume of data collected by the finance function increases, the department seems to be in a position to elevate its role further — helping the organization to not only accelerate its journey on the digital maturity curve but also ensure the function evolves into a more strategic position overall.
According to a new report by CPA Australia, Charting the Future of Accountancy with AI, as technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) [and robotic process automation] free up finance staff to think more creatively, it notes that a new set of roles are being created as a result of digitization.
Here are some of the roles that CPA Australia sees being created and an outline of not only what those roles will do but also what skills future professionals will need in order to fill those roles.
# 1 | Data scientists
According to CPA Australia, these professionals are key to understanding and manipulating the large volumes of data that modern companies collect — from internal and external sources.
While the organization believes that professionals to fill this role will need technical competencies such as SQL, R, Python, and Power BI/Visualization, they’ll also need to bring an in-depth understanding of the industry so that they’re able to ask the right questions from the data sets at their disposal.
Based on the suggestions in the report, it seems as though data scientists are key to transitioning today’s finance divisions into tomorrow’s future-ready Finance 4.0 business units.
# 2 | Scenario planners
Scenario planers are expected to help tomorrow’s finance functions determine likely scenarios, identify triggers for each, and determine the overall business impact.
With the help of modern technologies, especially AI, futuristic scenario plans are easier to build. Big data, on the other hand, makes those scenarios more robust as the data enables professionals to pain a more holistic picture.
This new role does seem to demand technical competencies such as Power BI/Visualization, Python, and TensorFlow, given the strong coherence with finance, this would probably be a role that internal staff could be groomed to fill in the future.
# 3 | Market maker
CPA Australia is of the opinion that the market maker of the future will be a role held by certain finance professionals who possess technical competencies such as TensorFlow, Wolfram Alpha, IBM Watson, etc and are able to use these intelligent tools to help the organization spot new opportunities quickly.
While the role is exciting, in order for such a role to actually benefit the organization, a strong and coherent data platform needs to be built.
Further, the company needs to be able to access a strong set of external data sources and combine it with internal data in order to help the market maker build the right models.
The market maker, however, is definitely a future competency that finance teams should aim to build — as it becomes more mature about its data operations.
# 4 | Social/behavioral scientist
The role of social/behavioral scientist is an interesting one with a slight overlap with the folks over in marketing. However, given that modern organizations are looking to break down the silos and facilitate inter-departmental collaboration, it makes perfect sense.
According to the report, the social/behavioral scientist needs technical competencies similar to the scenario planner but is expected to provide a more immediate benefit to the organization in terms of short- and medium-term decision making.
Meeting the demand for tech skills in finance
Tomorrow’s finance teams will be quite different from the ones we’re currently used to.
They’re going to be more collaborative and creative, and use data to deliver better insights to units across the business — from marketing to operations and supply chain.
CPA Australia’s report highlights, in a concrete way, the skills and competencies future finance professionals will need.
While Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) could potentially hire tech talent and provide some training to help them acclimatize to their role in finance, the reality is that tech talent is not easily available in the first place.
Therefore, CFOs, according to many experts, must consider collaborating with IT teams within the business to create cross-functional teams that can provide the necessary support without entirely taking on a new tech resource.
A few finance strategy professionals, for example, could work with a marketing analyst, a business intelligence specialist from the organization’s strategy team, and a handful of data specialists from the operations or IT function to provide the same insights that a scenario planner or social scientist would.
Alternatively, CFOs could look at grooming existing talent to fit the new roles that the finance function will need — although this might be a long term investment and require a strong commitment from the employee as well as the company. If successful, however, it is bound to be rewarding for both parties involved.
While organizations look at digital transforming themselves, CFOs and business leaders need to understand that finance can play a significant role. Preparing for that role, now, can provide a competitive edge to the business in the future.
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