The world of finance can be a cutthroat, competitive environment. It takes more than just technical expertise and strong analytical skills to stay competitive in this industry and lead a team successfully.
In fact, true success in this industry comes not just from the ability to analyse numbers but also from developing and consistently using the right soft skills.
Why Develop Soft Skills?
Professionals in accountancy and finance are often very good at crunching numbers and understanding the financial implications of a decision. But they can sometimes get caught up in the numbers, forgetting that finance does not operate in a bubble and decisions need to be explained to people of different backgrounds and with varying degrees of knowledge.
A senior accountant or finance professional needs to be able to not just understand numbers but also pack other necessary skills needed in today’s business environment.
While hard skills are more easily demonstrated through examples, interviews or performance reviews, they are not always the best predictor of success. Someone who demonstrates strong technical skills, for example, may fail to be effective in a leadership role.
Conversely, someone who demonstrates strong soft skills can not only move up the ranks but will be more likely to lead others effectively.
Understanding that career success does not just depend on what you know but also on how well you can apply key knowledge to specific situations is an important part of long-term professional success.
Top Soft Skills for Success in Finance
Here are some soft skills senior finance professionals should work on developing:
1. Effective Communication
This includes not just the ability to convey information clearly and persuasively but also how you present yourself and your ideas.
Senior finance professionals need to be highly articulate and confident when speaking, both with groups and one-on-one. They also need to present themselves well in written form whether through email or a formal report.
But communication is more than what we say or the concept of getting our points across. The way you listen to people matters too.
You need to listen carefully and without prejudice, with the intention to first understand others and not merely to respond.
2. Leadership Skills
Strong leadership skills are an essential part of succeeding as a senior finance professional. This includes not only the ability to direct people but also show them how they can succeed under your leadership.
A senior finance professional should be able to delegate responsibility and oversee a project from beginning to end, assigning tasks and tracking progress. Additionally, senior finance professionals need to have strong interpersonal skills that allow them to work with different teams within their organisation, from analysts to executives.
3. Presentation and Storytelling
Finance professionals should also have the ability to tell compelling stories about their work, whether it’s a success story from a recent project, how a financial concept helped a client, a failure and what was learned from it, or a story about how their team overcame an obstacle to reach a goal.
In a business world that becomes more and more data-driven every day, storytelling allows you to communicate complex financial ideas in a persuasive, memorable way.
Stories are easier for people to follow because they give context and relevance to the numbers being presented.
4. Problem-Solving and Strategic Thinking Skills
Accountants and finance experts deal with problem-solving on a regular basis.
As a matter of fact, a recent survey by Robert Half shows people in finance actually enjoy this part of the profession more. In the survey, 41% of accountants say solving problems gives them the most job satisfaction, compared to just 22% who prefer working with numbers.
The ability to think quickly and not get thrown off by curveballs is important for senior finance professionals.
It’s essential for staying calm and focused when big decisions need to be made as well as for dealing with issues that arise during all stages of a project.
5. Growth Mindset
In a fast-moving, ever-changing industry like finance, it’s important to always be open to learning and growing.
Finance is not a field for those who take comfort in the familiar and resist change.
Even if you’re experienced in finance, there are always new skills to learn. And senior finance professionals need to be flexible and open to change.
Financial professionals who have a growth mindset are able to see themselves as lifelong learners and believe that no matter their level of education or experience, they can always improve themselves.