Posted on Tuesday 26 February 2019 by Ulster Business

Luke rgb

The challenges facing finance leaders in a fast-changing world are numerous, with skills shortages and staff retention near the top of the list, writes Luke Fuller, director, Hays

In our report, What’s Challenging Finance Leaders 2018, confidence in the economic environment, Brexit, regulatory change and rapid internationalisation were seen as the big external barriers to success, while sourcing talent, particularly for technical roles, emerged as the most significant internal business challenge.

But finance leaders said their greatest personal challenge is managing their work-life balance and finding time to pursue career development while executing pressurised roles that carry responsibility. Even in organisations that offer career development opportunities, many don’t find time for personal development because they are too busy with day-to-day work.

Advocating a balance in the workplace when hiring can set an example, but existing finance leaders also need to also show they have a life outside the office and take time to refresh their own skillsets.

Finance leaders recognise the need to keep staff up-to date with new skills, technology and software. But it’s clear those in senior roles must themselves be prepared to embrace innovation to remain on top of their industry.

Rather than rendering them immediately obsolete, it’s likely that over the next five years artificial intelligence and robotic process automation will change the way workers perform their existing roles.

Finance is still an industry built on relationships and personal interaction, and technology won’t fully replace this. But to make sure your best people remain relevant, you must replace the functions taken over by AI with new skills so they can still add value.

Management of change is the greatest professional challenge facing finance leaders, so repurposing roles and responsibilities in the wake of technological developments should be addressed sooner rather than later.
Research suggests accountancy and finance is particularly at risk of having some jobs supplanted by new technology. And yet our survey showed some finance leaders remain sceptical of the influence that AI will have on the profession, preferring to focus on more traditional automation techniques to improve the efficiency of the finance function while recognising the impact it may have at a transactional level in future.

But as more is able to be achieved with automated technology, finance leaders will have to drive innovation, change the scope of the finance function and upskill those employees they want to retain.

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