The training, development and retention of the finance function is crucial to the success of any organisation.
This is the key message from a new report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and KPMG titled Maximising People Power: Effective talent management in finance.
However, many Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) are facing significant challenges in securing and retaining the right talent.
Mr Darryl Wee, country head of ACCA says: “Last year we found that only 20 per cent of organisations had a talent strategy for their finance team. We found that most talent management strategies weren’t strategic at all – they were informal, sometimes run in isolation of other departments and not part of a wider integrated plan. This cannot continue.”
According to the report, the challenge in the talent management strategy starts with finding certain skills, capabilities and experience levels which will be required of the finance professional. These include core financial expertise, commercial knowledge and softer skills such as communication and negotiation capability.
However, these may not necessarily be available in the organisation, or even in the wider recruitment market. The strategy must therefore take account of the current availability of skills, and the potential for the organisation to develop desired skills in future among its retained finance professionals.
Mr Tan Wah Yeow, Deputy Managing Partner at KPMG in Singapore says: “Human capital is at the heart of transforming the finance function. A recent study by KPMG reveals that more than three-quarters of CFOs surveyed cited human capital as the key concern over the next five years. With an expected squeeze on the availability of suitable talent, CFOs should also look at formal programmes to groom talent internally.”
The ACCA / KPMG report says that the responsibility lies with CFOs to establish and maintain great talent practices. Any plans they may have for restructuring the finance function must include a talent management plan that addresses the skills, capabilities and experience levels that are needed.
Eight key components are suggested for CFOs facing this challenge:
• Define talent – Organisations need to identify what talent looks like – the key skills and behaviours that finance professionals must have to deliver the organisational strategy.
• Identify recruitment and talent needs – Organisations should look at both the long and short term needs of the business and the finance function, recruit from within and without the function, and bring individuals into finance who have an established business or commercial understanding.
• Define the competencies needed – The next step is to consider what technical, business and behavioral competencies are needed.
• Target development – Some finance roles will be more critical to the organisation than others. Junior roles can be as critical as more senior ones.
• Offer comprehensive learning – Leading organisations offer a comprehensive range of learning and development activities, which can be selected to suit the needs of the individual. Organisations are increasingly using Finance Academies to provide structured and consistent training.
• Structure career paths – Organisations must develop career paths for finance personnel that enable them to reach and aspire.
• Use performance management and reward – Align this to the overall organisational strategy, with rewards linked to individual achievements.
• Review regularly – The whole talent framework needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure it continues to meet the requirements of the wider organisation and the finance function itself.
In an increasingly complex environment, finance professionals will need to have deep financial expertise complemented with commercial knowledge of the business and its environment.
The CFO therefore has a huge task ahead of them. They will need to look at talent management plans that will generally require focused development, often involving rotations into non-financial commercial roles, to help them develop the capabilities and commercial insights they need.
“The big question is how to manage these changes required while delivering real and sustainable value. The ability of CFOs to do so will therefore hinge on their being able to understand the needs of their business, and in engaging cross-functional teams in sustainable change initiatives,” notes Mr Tan.
For the finance function, this is a new role for new times, says Mr Tan. “In addition, the finance professional is likely to assume an even bigger role over the next five years as companies strive to improve their performance and maintain their competitiveness.”
Mr Wee from ACCA concludes: “Talent management is broader than the individual; it is about managing aspirations and bringing a diverse range of talents together across the organisation for the benefit of the business; it is about boosting the finance function’s credibility both internally and externally. There are tremendous opportunities ahead of us, and our experience tells us that those organisations who put talent at the heart of their finance function gain competitive advantage.”