Finance skills in 2025
What does finance's structure and functionality mean for the skillset of future ﬁnance leaders, to enable their organisation to ﬂourish? George Carey spoke to some forward-thinking ﬁnance directors to get their take.
The pace of change in business is relentless and for accountants steering the ﬁnances in these organisations, it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve. With technology pushing an evolving workplace environment and streamlined processes, how can the ﬁnance accountants of 2025 ensure success?
Business-wide visibility It’s been oft-discussed in recent years that, whether an accountant in business or practice, many of your stakeholders and clients require more than just statutory-focused number crunching. Can the numbers be used to gauge the future?
Anthea Morris, director and co-founder of health screening company Better2Know, is acutely aware of the importance of this understanding, something that she sees becoming even more pivotal as technology advances.
Commenting that additional areas of ‘resource’ that often fall under ﬁnance directors’ purview – such as IT and HR – are undergoing their own rapid advances, she says that canny operators in ﬁnance must stay on top of those changes, too.
Technology, Morris says, is changing everything, from the way accountants in business book-keep and pay people, to the way staﬀ are recruited, kept relevant, and retained. She argues that working practices should change, based on the fact that every tool is now faster and more responsive.
“You may want to consider whether it is time to look at traditional business planning processes on a three- to-ﬁve-year timeframe, to become more agile and take advantage of new technologies in the here and now, and drive business change faster than before,” she says. Morris maintains, however, that a focus on leveraging the latest advances must be tempered by the ﬁnance professional’s vital view of the long-term future.
Andrew Fagg is a freelance ﬁnance director, whose work with a range of companies gives him a well-rounded view of the profession. He sees the proliferation of data, and the ability to harness and interpret it, as the key diﬀerence between 2025’s good ﬁnance professionals and its great ones.
The companies that interpret data and make decisions quickly, changing their outlook dynamically, he argues, are the ones that will ﬂourish. These company decisions should, of course, be led by an authoritative voice in the ﬁnance department.
“Increasingly, this data-focused decision making is driven by algorithms and even AI, so it is vital that accountants understand the relationships between inputs and outputs and the quality of the decision making,” says Fagg.
To maintain the inﬂuence that an eﬀective ﬁnance director must hold, in a time of AI and data models, impressive internal communication skills will continue to be a diﬀerentiating factor for 2025’s ﬁnance professionals, according to Mark Jenkins. As ﬁnance director for HR and payroll solutions ﬁrm MHR, he’s well versed in the advantages of tech-led thinking, but values a nuanced human voice above all.
No replacement for human interaction
“Internal stakeholders are eﬀ ectively customers, and rely on timely and accurate information provided in a format that’s easy to understand,” Jenkins asserts.
“What we do in finance isn’t magic. For the most part it is taking disparate information, applying some business logic, and passing it on to someone who can add further value.”
Fagg agrees that eﬀective communication is integral to success in ﬁnance, and thinks those who can master that, in a time of increased remote working and digital interaction, will be the ones who perform best.
He adds: “Building presence and inﬂuence is harder outside a traditional oﬃce setting, so these soft skills need to be worked on hard – with key alliances in the organisation.”
Heading ﬁnance for software company Microfocus, Katie Jacob perhaps takes an aﬃnity with technology as a given for the ﬁnancial accountant of the future. As a result of this, when questioned about the skills necessary in 2025, her focus remains on more time-honoured qualities.
“Be curious. Think and ask why. Go the extra mile and take work from the boss. Remove work and don’t be afraid that if the work goes it will mean the end for you. Your hard work will be rewarded and your skills should always be transferable,” Jacob says.
George Carey is a freelance journalist