5 Tips for Finance Professionals

Financial,accounting,investment advisor consulting with her team

Success for finance professionals doesn’t come easy.  It requires a unique blend of both technical and soft skills rarely found in one individual.  While technical skills are easy to identify and can then be obtained, the required soft skills are often nebulous and hard to grasp even once explained.  Below are 5 tips that have guided me throughout my successful career in finance.

Think Like an Investor

This is what separates successful finance professionals from the rest.  When you think like an investor, you care.  You care why products are not performing to forecast and you care when a new product launch gets delayed. You find out what caused the delay and if there’s anything that can be done about it.  After all, you want to get the greatest return on your investment that you can!

Let Me Tell You a Story…

One of the earliest and most common ways information was passed between individuals was through the use of stories.  As a finance professional, you are a vendor of information and must utilize the power of stories to summarize and explain results in a memorable way.  Second tier finance professionals just recite facts and figures which, in their raw form, can be disinteresting and difficult to extract meaning from.  When management starts looking to you early and often to tell the story, you know you’re on the path to success.

“Trust but Verify”

A finance professional without credibility will quickly find themselves unemployed.  As previously stated, finance professionals are vendors of information and sometimes our source of information is incorrect or incomplete.  “Trust but verify” is the attitude often quoted by finance professionals to reflect the fine line we walk between trusting the people and processes which provide us information and validating the accuracy of the information as we vet the data.

Use Caution when Changing the Narrative

Sometimes the narrative changes because you reported on bad or incomplete information.  Other times, the narrative changes because additional factors are discovered.  Whatever the reason for the change in narrative, it’s going to happen during your finance career and it needs to be handled very strategically.  Make sure to “close the loop” on the narrative change, meaning you should have answers to as many of the below question as possible before discussing it with management:

  • Materiality – How large is the change?
  • Cause – Why is the narrative changing?
  • Timing – Why now/why wasn’t this discovered sooner?
  • Solution – What will prevent this from happening again?
  • Scope – How do we know this isn’t happening anywhere else?

Being able to minimize fallout and concerns from narrative changes helps to preserve your credibility, displays your business acumen, and allows management to focus on value-add activities instead of “babysitting.”

Pay Attention to the “Flavor of the Week”

Some items warrant our attention regardless of how material they are…these are often the “flavor of the week.”  It can be anything that catches upper management’s eye and will receive extra scrutiny for the foreseeable future until usurped by the next flavor of the week.  Being able to read between the lines of corporate initiatives, acquisitions, and questions from management, will help you identify the new flavor.  Being able to tell the latest story shows that you are in tune with leadership and, if you can improve the metric, management and other finance professionals will note that you have the influence to drive positive change in your organization.

Author – Nathan Vannoy, Big 4 CPA, MBA
DLC Finance and Accounting Consultant

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