How will the recent ABS data affect your finance team?

By Robert Half on 26 June 2017

The finance industry is set to face big transformations in 2017.

Recent data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals that jobs in the finance sector have dipped by 1.6% and 3.4% in the last quarter. 

These industry trends are despite an enormous increase in overall employment for the third consecutive month, with unemployment at its lowest level since February 2013 (the jobless rate fell to 5.5% in May from 5.7%).

While these changes will help to unlock new opportunities for the future, they also require finance leaders to be consistently aware of these employment trends and make plans accordingly.

This article outlines some of the changes you can expect in 2017, as well as what attributes you need to keep a sharp eye for when building a finance team that can navigate these future developments.

What changes should you expect to see to finance?

Although it’s difficult to know exactly what the future holds for the finance industry, there are some predictions that can be made based on current trends. Here are five key things to look out for:

  1. Workplace automation – Expect to see some of our more basic, manual, and repetitive tasks being carried out by advancements in technology. This could include ledger entry, chasing unpaid invoices, as well as many other activities. This step could not only help to reduce operating costs, but also increase efficiency and effectiveness of financial processes.
  2. Leveraging big data – Another trend to look out for is the increased usage and value of Big Data. This evolution can help finance teams spot possible anomalies in accounts, flag any potential issues, more accurately calculate financial risks, and forecast trends. Additionally, big data analytics can ultimately provide finance managers with actionable insights to support their decision making. Paired with automation, informed decisions could be made in a split-second.
  3. Digitisation – Although digitalisation has been in the business pipeline for several years, it is still top of the agenda for 2017. Businesses will work towards having a more digital office, storing documents in the cloud, using online signatures to sign off accounts and more.
  4. Security – With technology usage increasing in the finance industry, data is becoming more susceptible to hackers. Cyber-security is therefore a big concern for finance businesses in 2017, with more advanced strategies and key expert hiring needed to help keep data safe. It’s also important to factor in that data is no longer just accessed via internal networks, but also online, via mobile devices instituted by companies who have a BYOD policy.
  5. Increased expectations – Being a finance manager will be much more than just providing accounts, filing taxes, managing the bottom line and delivering on financial objectives. Expectations are rising, with added pressure on finance teams to also provide strategic direction to businesses, and to help make more informed decisions for the future.

In what way will a finance team need to adapt to industry changes?

Just being aware of these changes isn’t enough. Simply adding technology to automate processes and analyse data is also not sufficient.

Businesses need to make sure they have a team of people in place that have the right experiences, soft skills, and traits, who can adapt to these changes. With this, you can navigate your way through the future of finance.

So what attributes will employees need in order to succeed? Look below at some of our suggestions:

  • Accounting skills – Having accounting skills is obviously top of the list when it comes to creating a finance team, but it’s also important that they demonstrate a keen interest and willingness to stay up-to-date with changes, such as legislation and accounting standards.
  • Technical skills – With technology becoming a big part of finance, it’s important to find talent who are enthusiastic and capable of using technology to add value to the business and adapt to any future developments. This can include being able to use financial software packages, cloud software and reporting tools.
  • Analytical skills – With big data, you can do more than just report on the numbers. You can also dig deeper to find trends. Therefore, it’s important for your finance team to have strong analytical skills, to find insights that can help steer the business in the right direction and leverage new opportunities.
  • Time management skills – With increased expectations, finance teams cannot rest on the laurels of digital automation to make their life easier. Time management remains more important and critical than ever to help meet tight deadlines and requirements.
  • Communication skills – Often, a finance team would appear to work more behind the scenes. But with expectations to provide more strategic direction, employees need strong communication skills to be able to ask questions, work with other teams, collaborate with leaders, and present their analysis to key stakeholders in a way they can easily understand and act on.

Despite technology aiding us with more manual, labour intensive tasks, there is still a need for human oversight and experience in a finance team. In fact, both can work together to help drive the finance industry forward.

However, finance leaders will need to adapt to these changes and ensure their team has the right skills in order to remain effective and add real value to organisations and the future of the finance function.

“Not only are there finance roles that need to be filled, new roles have been created – an emerging demand that can be attributed to company expansion and additional business projects," says Jones. "This inevitably requires more finance personal to manage this growth. As the finance function continues to evolve, companies need well-adept finance staff to manage this change in order to remain competitive.”

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