The Top Skills for CFOs and Finance / Accounting Pros

"What got your here, won't get you there" - Emmanuale Gobillot

How to jump-start your career in 2014 and jump-start your revenue growth as a business.

Career and Revenue growth?

That's right! They both are greatly improved by strategic and sytematic learning according to a recent report by Ernst & Young and own our research at BLI.

Let's start with the career.

We led the in-person forums for the CPA Horizons 2025 Project that exposed over 1,000 CPAs to research by three futurist groups about the major trends facing businesses out to the year 2025.

Then we asked them what skills would be the most critical to success in navigating from here to there.

They identified five critical competencies for the future (after the core technical accounting / financial skills):

  1. Leadership: The ability to develop and share insights and the aptitude to mobilize and inspire others to action. Leadership is about finding possibilities and developing people, utilizing their strengths, and shaping the future.
  2. Communications: Able to give and exchange information with meaningful context and appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills. It includes the ability to make thinking visible to others in a way they can easily grasp.
  3. Strategic thinking: A future-minded and flexible mindset that thinks critically and creatively. The ability to link data, knowledge and insights together to provide quality advice for strategic decision-making.
  4. Collaboration and synthesis: Being effective at engaging others and working across boundaries to turn challenges into opportunities, including the ability to consider the whole picture (past, present, and future context) and create alternatives and options for the future.
  5. Being tech savvy: Anticipating technology changes and how they can benefit others. Being adept at standardizing data for transparency, efficient exchange, and visualization.

Since then we have been checking those against research from other groups incuding IBM Global CEO Study, Workplace 2020, ASTD, Pew Internet, and more. The results is that these are THE SUCCESS Skills CPAs (and most other business people) will need to be successful in this rapidly changing and complex world.

As if to put an excalamation work on this competency work, two more reports, focusing specifically on CFOs recently came out - E&Y's Finance Forte - The Future of Finance Leadership and the IMA / ACCA report Future Pathways to Finance Leadership (registration required)

Both reports reflect the rapidly changing business environment and the changing roles of CFOs. Both reports talk about the increasingly complex business environment and globalization, and mention the technology changes of social, mobile, the cloud, and Big Data. Both reports emphasize the need for leadership, strategic thinking, communication, collaboration, and the need to be tech savvy. Sound familiar?

What if you could jump-start these skills for 2014?   You can!   Join us on Jan. 30 with one of the leading business thinkers in the world, Rita McGrath, as she leads a conversation around The End of Competitive Advantage: Finding your Edge in 2014.The in-person event will be held at the BWI Airport Hilton in Maryland (between Baltimore and D.C.) and via webcast. Registration and details can be found here.   Or buy our BLI Leadership Express bundle of on-demand, just-in-time leadership and management programs - over 50 hours for $195   Or take our 8-hour MBA program that was recently featured in Inc. Magazine as part of our Competitive EDge Curriculum for Sage.    Now let's talk about the organization.   The other key finding by the E&Y research is the link between talent development and revenue growth, "there is a correlation between revenue growth, and the extent to which CFOs and their organziation take a formal approach to talent development and succession planning."   This mirrors our own research and was the #1 issue at our Maryland Public Company Finance/Accounting Consortium incuding top finance/accounting leaders from Marriott, McCormick, Under Armour, T. Rowe Price, Grace, FTI Consulting, and Ciena. They said that talent development was the number one opportunity and a key to their global competitiveness.    You may be thinking so what? How can this apply to mid-market organizations, CPA firms, or other businesses?    

We put these skills in a framework we call The Bounce and show how the skills work across a career ladder and emphasize the importance of the key financial technical skills early in a CPA's career. Interestingly, this follows Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000-Hour Rule" from his book, Outliers, in which he claims the key to success in any field requires about 10,000 hours to master a body of knowledge. Applying this to The Bounce would show the first five years of a CPA career really working to master the critical accounting and financial body of knowledge. Then, at the manager position comes the turn and change of focus. It is this point at which the new skills like those listed above become critical.



You can download our guide to The Bounce and the career framework here

You can get these skills on-demand and just-in-time with our BLI Express for Leaders bundle (50+ hours for $195)

and upcoming webcasts featuring our Business Leanring Institute #successkills here

and check out our Business Learining Institute's catalog of #successkills for on-site and multiple format skills to bring to your office.

What are the top skills you think CFOs need for 2014?

More resources:


Thomas Hood