Transformation of Finance Function Causing Skills Shortage for UK Companies

More than four in five UK executives want to form stronger partnerships between the finance department and other parts of the business, according to a research report from recruitment firm Robert Half UK.

However, a third of executives say that they find it difficult to source candidates with the right experience to implement a business partnering approach, while 58% report that it is very difficult to retrain existing traditional finance professionals to take on a business partnering role. As a result, 70% will be looking externally for talent whether via the recruitment of permanent employees (35%) or interim professionals (35%).

The report gauges the progress that companies in the UK (and their European counterparts) have made in developing finance business partnerships and the problems faced in embedding such partnerships within the organisation.

A range of drivers are pushing finance partnering to become mission critical in the UK, including the increased complexity of business, more intense competition, technological change and greater business volatility. Almost two-thirds of UK respondents believe that economic uncertainty increases the need for a company’s finance function to develop business partnering capabilities.

The survey reveals that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) share many similarities with larger companies when it comes to business partnering. Indeed, business partnering is equally accepted in SMEs and larger businesses alike: 45% feel that wider acceptance from the business is necessary to enable partnering to prosper.

Despite the clear commitment by executives at large and small companies alike to push through change, nearly one in four UK respondents struggle to implement business partnering properly, and only half have a function that is fully embedded across the organisation.

“The research highlights a new skills gap for finance departments who want to make the transition from traditional accountancy to add extra value across their organisations, including optimising the performance of the business, providing support for better business decision-making, and improving risk management throughout the organisation,” said  Phil Sheridan, managing director, Robert Half UK. “Our research shows that the vast majority of finance teams see the requirement to change, but lack the right people to put it into practice.

“Finance needs specific talent programmes to identify and develop business partners, and manage their careers, in a structured way. Job rotation, foreign assignments and job shadowing have a role in facilitating the necessary skills and experience. Attracting finance personnel with the right profile may require a rethink of traditional career paths for finance executives: aspiring finance business partners need to see that there are clear and exciting opportunities to further develop their careers within the business.”

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