Rethinking Skill Sets For The New Generation Of Finance Recruits

Gina McNamara

In any team environment, diversity is  fundamental to success. Bringing together different styles of approach, viewpoints, skills, and thinking to your workforce adds a robust yet dynamic execution.

In the age of digital transformation, it is today even more important that diversity in the workplace moves away from traditional in-the-box approach to finance roles, to a different way of thinking, outside the box of the traditional accounting skill set.

At the recent CFO Forum, Andrew Griffiths, CFO, Deloitte Australia, said STEM graduates are becoming the focus for future finance pathways. Science, technology, engineering, and mechanical graduates are bringing a new dynamic. They hold a new way of thinking, and particularly in reference to the finance professional, an interest in the analytical component.

Analytics for the finance professional is just starting to take off. The importance and advanced capabilities springing to the market are completely changing the way we execute our roles.

An aspiring CFO I spoke to at a recent conference referred to the future of the CFO role as digitally enabling finance teams through tool sets such as analytics.

Understanding the science behind the way these analytics work in the finance paradigm will be a core competency of the future workforce.

My first-hand experience in this shift has been rethinking hiring and the types of people that I bring into finance. Gone are the days where I am purely hiring based on an accounting degree and accounting professional certification.

Yes, these things are important. However, when I recently conducted interviews for an internship within my field finance team, I expanded the pool to those who had great results in STEM. To the surprise of a lot of my colleagues, the search resulted in a pharmaceutical graduate. Why did I choose Emily? In addition to a fabulous personality, she understands the science behind analytics. In the short space she has been on board, I have given her a number of projects, and her proficiency in STEM has delivered faster outcomes than what I have ever seen before.

In order to deliver the cultural shift described by Andrew Griffiths, we at SAP are already coaching on the soft skills and analytical skills for our teams to play a more out-of-the-box role. The program that we are running is called Transformation Agent Training. It is training based on the Challenger methodology that we train our sales teams on. Our finance teams get to experience a real-life customer problem where they need to think more about what they are doing for the customer and why. Not only does this develop an understanding and empathy towards our customers, but it also engenders a deeper sense of partnering with the business colleagues they support.

Diversity in skill sets certainly is an important trait for companies to follow, but as important is diversity among the generational workforce.

Millennials are a hot topic of discussion among not only the finance function, but across all lines of business. A recent article published by Estelle Lagorce of SAP talks about the different aspirations and expectations millennials hold around the nature of work. An interesting reference Estelle makes is around “technology-averse finance department,” something which I think hits the nail on the head on the reason behind why change in the finance function is imminent, making diversity even more important than ever for an organization.

Millennials have grown up with technology. They enter the workforce and can be shocked by a business that has not moved with the times. I love the eagerness and ambition of this generation and how they ask the question that previous generations would have been scared to ask the more senior people in the organization. They are not scared of hierarchy and will bounce in to clarify with questions on projects.

This moves the project forward so much faster, whereas their earlier-generation peers would wait until the one-on-one catch-up that is scheduled in a week. This scares a lot of managers, but I find it refreshing, and will continue to look for talented graduates and students so that I have my bench strength strong as roles become available.

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Gina McNamara

About Gina McNamara

Gina McNamara is the CFO for SAP Australia and New Zealand, leading a team of approximately 40 staff across core finance, legal and contracts, facilities, purchasing, and information technology. She has been with SAP since May 2007. Before taking on the CFO position, Gina worked in Commercial Finance Business Support for SAP Australia and New Zealand, where she supported sales and consulting teams with revenue recognition and deal support. Gina is a strong advocate for demonstrating how SAP runs SAP and technology to improve operations for the office of the CFO, particularly around moving from an on-premise environment to the cloud.