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How to be successful in a Finance job

Because finance professionals work across many types of different industries and businesses, people with differing interests can have successful careers in finance. If you pursue a career in finance you could work in a bank or insurance company, within the manufacturing, retail, technology, or media sectors, for a charity, university, or local government – the possibilities are plentiful.

Whether you’re looking to change careers, you’re ready for your next step up, or just starting out in finance, it’s important to know the types of finance jobs available to you and understand how your performance will be measured within this field.

Importance of a finance function

A finance department is the beating heart of any business; paying employee salaries, paying invoices and overheads, collecting income from clients, and identifying opportunities to increase revenue.

The general purpose of a finance department within a business is usually split into two functions: accounting and reporting, and strategic financial management.

The accounting and reporting team are responsible for ensuring that the company remains financially solvent and observes all financial regulations. Their duties include:

  • Day-to-day record keeping and reporting, including accounts payable, receivable and payroll.
  • The preparation of financial statements, balance sheets and cashflow reports.
  • Conducting internal audits and controls.
  • Tax functions and reporting.

The strategic financial management team assess the company’s overall financial health and set long and short-term goals accordingly. Their duties include:

  • Producing reports predicting company growth and future trends.
  • Managing and mitigating financial risks.
  • Liaising with investors.
  • Managing budgets and finance options.
  • Proposing ways to increase capital.

Typical finance job roles and how success is measured

Job roles within a finance department are ideal for those who like working with numbers, are methodical, logical, and analytically minded, have an interest in the business world and enjoy problem solving. Example job roles and what they aim to successfully achieve include:

  • Finance Assistant – completes day-to-day financial tasks including bookkeeping, budgeting, updating tax records, data entry, balance sheet preparation, cost analysis and timely processing of invoices.
  • Finance Manager – oversees the finance team, budget forecasting, financial planning and able to analyse complex data and present to others in an understandable form.
  • Financial Accountant – responsible for the everyday running of the company’s finance requirements, maintaining the financial records, providing analytical data, reporting and accounting functions.
  • Financial Controller– manages budgets, oversees accounting functions, and produces reports which analyse the company’s financial status and potential for future growth.
  • Financial Analyst – develops financial models, interprets complex data to plan, budgets and forecasts the company’s financial trends and performance.
  • Financial Planner or Advisor – provides information on savings and investment opportunities, develops financial plans and budgets risk assessments and financial regulation enforcement.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – head of the department and ultimately responsible for overseeing the whole finance team. Working with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on the company’s future direction, focusing on the financial health, growth, and strategy of the organisation.

The CFO is responsible for streamlining and improving the productivity within the finance department, reducing overhead costs, and measuring their success levels by meeting or exceeding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Weekly, monthly, or yearly finance KPIs are used to measure the company’s profitability, solvency, liquidity, valuation, and efficiency. These include:

  • Increasing Gross Profit, which is a measure of the company’s profitability, without accounting for any overheads.
  • Increasing Net Profit Margins after subtracting the business’ costs.
  • Raising the amount of Working Capital available to fund the company’s operations.
  • Improving Return on Equity (ROE) which measures how well investments are earning the company a profit.
  • Improving the operating cash flow within the business that can be used to grow operations.

Key skills required in a finance job

The general skills required to be successful in a finance role include mathematical expertise, investigative nature, having a positive and approachable manner, great communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. You will also need excellent negotiation, influencing and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to be flexible, resilient, dedicated, decisive and analytical.

Further desirable key skills within finance jobs include:

  • The ability to produce accurate financial reports to specific deadlines.
  • Exceptional technical accounting knowledge.
  • Knowledge of financial regulations and legislation.
  • The capacity to make quick but rational decisions.
  • A high-level of presentation skills.
  • The ability to interpret financial information.
  • Being able to advise of any financial changes affecting the business.
  • Assertive analysis of market trends and competitors.
  • Experience in conducting reviews and evaluation of cost-reduction opportunities.
  • The ability to develop external relationships with appropriate contacts, such as Auditors, Solicitors, Bankers and Statutory Organisations such as the Inland Revenue.
  • Competence in using accounting and office software packages, including Sage, QuickBooks, Xero, Microsoft Excel, Access, and Word.

Qualifications needed in finance roles include a Financial Accountant qualification from an accredited institution or a bachelor’s degree in Finance, Accounting, Economics or Business Administration.

Your experience needed will increase as you progress along the financial career path. When you first apply for finance jobs you will need to have gained work placement experience as part of your training. You will require at least five years’ experience to apply for Finance Manager roles and a great many more years of experience is needed for the ultimate financial role of CFO.

To improve your knowledge and develop a greater understanding of the financial business world, try immersing yourself in the industry by attending finance related networking events, joining relevant communities, reading books and articles, or listening to podcasts on financial matters.

As there is such a broad range of careers within the financial sector, it’s important to follow a career path that will play to your strengths and skills. If you are a decisive and persuasive person, you could succeed in investment banking, however if you possess fantastic leadership skills and have an analytical mind, you could thrive as a Financial Manager.

Next steps

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