Future-proofing finance for the digital era

Technology will forever change the way we do business. So how can you best prepare your organisation’s financial future?

The impact of AI and digital technology will be felt right across organisations. But every challenge is also an opportunity, at least for those who are willing to look far enough ahead and plan now for what the future will look like (however uncertain it might appear at first glance). One of the most significant areas to feel the impact will be finance.

Core skills will still be vital. Technical skills, ethics and professional standards will still be required, but we’re likely to see a significant requirement for new ways of working in finance. Finance, working with HR, will need to identify what these are likely to be and develop programmes to ensure gaps are closed tightly. A new breed of financial managers need to be geared up to face whatever the future holds. So how can HR ensure that when it comes to learning and development we find the right partner to ensure that finance teams are equipped with the new skills and mindset required to add value to the organisation.

To help you find a one-stop supplier or organisation with the skills you need here are five things you should be looking for:

1. Can they support your capability frameworks?

It’s important that any partner can use your HR and business knowledge to either support your existing capability frameworks or work with you, using their expert financial knowledge, to build a new framework tailored to your needs.

2. Can they provide what we need at every level?

You need a partner who really understands the range of financial skills and capabilities for different roles/levels within your business. Do they have a range of programmes and outputs available to engage with all your stakeholders right from the outset? Think about the need to provide both bespoke in-house training together with individual courses tailored for key staff members, such as leadership skills for women working in finance.

3. How will they support our leadership development?

Can they clearly demonstrate their understanding of all aspects of leadership development, such as succession planning as a key aspect of business growth, and show how they can assist you with such core needs as talent retention?

4. Can they demonstrate their leadership in professional terms?

Can they show that they have the depth of knowledge to truly understand the impact change will bring, and therefore have the range of courses and programmes to meet all business eventualities? It’s this need that led the ICAEW to form its own training arm, the Academy of Professional Development.

5. Do they have facilitators who really know our business?

Great facilitators are an absolute essential, whatever your training and development needs. But in finance it’s critical that your partner organisation has ones who truly understand the needs of finance and have a track record in business and/or accountancy practice, including expert in-depth subject knowledge.

Alongside these questions you should expect your future-proofing partner to demonstrate their ability to work alongside a range of finance and HR business partners to collaborate and design bespoke programmes.

Regardless of the impact of automation in the industry finance teams will remain a vital function for all businesses. The trick will be to ensure that they are equipped with the right skills and mindset to utilise data automation by adding the right insight for key business decisions. All the more reason to ensure that you future-proof your finance teams. With the right partner you can do just that.

Dharmesh Chheda is head of the Academy of Professional Development at the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales (ICAEW)