Surprising technical skills in demand for accounting and finance


Python is no longer just the preserve of programmers, and Agile is no longer just for project managers, as the demand for accounting and finance professionals who can sprint and code continues to grow.

By Rachel Williamson

A new report from recruiting agency Robert Half and labor market analysis companies Burning Glass, The demand for skilled talent, analyzes online job postings for finance and accounting positions over the past five years. The findings are surprising.

The largest increase in demand for technical skills is in the Python programming language (up 33%) and the Scrum process development framework (up 2.6%).

These technological skills generate significant salary increases. Payroll specialists with experience in system applications and in-process products (SAP) now earn up to 4% more in base salary than others, while CFOs with resource planning skills (ERP) companies now earn 8% more than their less skilled counterparts. .

Employers across industries are desperate for people who can analyze the data, with demand rising 28%. For them, accountants and finance professionals with digital skills offer a speed advantage.

“Everyone tries to use the data the best they can, but providing reports that allow management to report in real time or self-service is much more important,” says Paul Winter , partner in charge of KPMG’s CFO Advisory activity.

Winter sees the demand for greater coding skills in finance teams also coming from another area: regulators.

“Regulators are asking to see more data, especially in the area of ​​financial services, banking and pensions,” he said.

COVID-19 causes skills crisis

The demand for specialized digital skills such as Python, SAP, ERP, Structured Query Language (SQL) and Scrum has been increasing for more than five years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a real tightening, said Andrew Brushfield, director of Robert Half.

“Businesses have become increasingly dependent on them over the past 18 months to nimbly analyze and respond to uncertain financial scenarios,” he says.

“Talent to meet this demand is scarce, prompting employers to increase salary offers for skilled professionals by 10% to 20%. “

For small accounting firms, the pandemic meant clients had to have their books up to date to apply for government business grants like JobSeeker or urgent bank loans. This created an unexpected need for more hands on the bridge.

The skills shortage is exacerbated by the lack of international migration, which is blocking a vital supply of talent, the cautiousness of skilled employees about role changes given the disruptions of the past year and an accelerating demand for digital skills exceeding capacity. of the national workforce to develop. them.

This highlights the need for employers to develop their existing workforce and think outside the box geographically to fill the gaps, explains Brushfield.

“In order to address skills shortages, employers are increasingly turning to remote work to access talent outside their geographic area. This report found that there has been a 1924% increase in remote workstations for finance and accounting professionals since the start of the pandemic, ”he said.

Coding versus communication

However, not everyone wants an accountant who can code, says Michael Edelstein CPA, finance and accounting recruiting specialist.

“To a certain extent these skills are scarce, but they are only in demand for certain categories of accountants in large companies who are very data-driven and are looking for people who can pull the numbers together to make real-time decisions. .

Small businesses actually want an accountant to have business acumen rather than [to] be able to code, ”he says.

Edelstein says that while technical skills can be learned, communication skills are an underappreciated talent among finance and accounting professionals.

“You can be a Python master, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t communicate,” he says.

“Data is useless unless you can present it in a way that a CEO can use to adjust strategy and decide what next steps make sense. Very few accountants can present data convincingly enough for someone to act on it. “

Winter agrees, adding that understanding data visualization software such as Power Bi and Tableau is becoming increasingly important.

Skills of the future

The current demand for digital accounting skills will lead to a range of other essential areas of expertise among finance professionals.

Winter believes that tighter rules around privacy and data security set the stage for skills around information governance frameworks to increase in demand.

“If people have access to more data, we need to make sure that the access is appropriate and that people aren’t accessing it for purposes that they shouldn’t be,” says Winter.

However, adds Brushfield, the main focus on future technical qualities likely to make the list of CPA skills will be those that facilitate business planning and income generation, stimulate the creation of new products and services, facilitate management and use of data, and create efficiencies and stronger team collaboration for businesses.

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