In-demand skills in 2016

Our panel of recruitment experts reveal what they think will be the key finance 
skills for finance professionals in 2016


Business confidence is ever so gently and cautiously returning, and with it a growing number of jobs. Accounting and finance roles are top of the list of ‘in-demand’ roles, with 92% of CFOs in the UK finding it difficult to hire professionals with the desired skills, according to a Robert Half survey.

This is all great news for ACCA students and members. But what are the key skills they need to be aware of in the coming year. We talked to industry experts to get the inside view.

Commercial acumen, strategy and flexibility

Giles McIntyre, associate director, Investigo:
'Over the last six to 12 months there has been a greater focus overall on people with commercial and analytical skills within the accountancy and finance field. Towards the latter part of 2015 employers required a mixture of pure technical skills; however, on the whole throughout 2015, the need arose for commercially focused individuals who have the ability to review financial information and really interrogate it.

'Moving into 2016 this trend is set to continue as more businesses place extra emphasis on understanding their market place and identifying what their strategy is for future growth.'

Josh Rufus, manager – public practice, Morgan McKinley:
'The accountant of 2016 needs to be commercially savvy, with the ability to be able to communicate with people at all levels. Clients will be looking for people who are not only technically astute, but also have excellent interpersonal skills.'

Andrew Setchell, director, commerce and industry, Robert Walters:
'Accountants need to be seen to be as commercial as possible. We are working in ever-changing markets and roles, strategies and businesses reflect that. The candidates need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and muck in with all aspects of the business and not just focus on their core responsibilities. Companies want candidates who are readily adaptable and can change in evolving environments.'

New reporting standards

Josh Rufus, Morgan McKinley:
'From January 2016, financial reporting standards are changing, FRS 102 is replacing UK GAAP, so this skill will be highly sought after, particularly within small businesses.'

Suggest improvements and communicate them well

Simon Smith, director, commerce and industry, Marks Sattin:
'Being a good accountant and numbers person is no longer enough. Businesses now demand fantastic communication skills and for finance professionals to be engaged with the business and proactive in driving relationships and making business improvements.

'Those with a strong technical background will be most in demand in 2016, reporting and analytical skills are key coupled with commercial acumen and industry experience. Negotiation, communication and business partnering are all hot topics and we have recently seen an increase in international roles with language skills.'

The many languages of finance

Simon Smith, Marks Sattin:
'Employers are looking increasingly for industry-specific experience, strong academic background and language skills. The biggest frustration is a lack of qualified accountants who speak a second language fluently.'

Soft skills tech-savvy increasingly important…:

Phil Sheridan, MD, Robert Half UK:
'For 2016, accountancy and finance professionals will continue to support the wider business. The role has shifted into the position of a strategic partner and more importance has been placed on soft skills to complement their technical ability.

'Top accountancy and finance professionals are now expected to have (or, at least, to be developing) leadership experience, the ability to communicate with key stakeholders across the board and the ability to interpret and articulate findings from data.'

Ann Swain, chief executive, Association of Professional Staffing Companies:
'It appears that one of the most in-demand skill sets for 2016 centres around technology. Accountants who are "tech savvy" and can demonstrate knowledge of business intelligence systems, data analytics and advanced modelling will be in high demand.

'Our members are also seeing employers becoming much more concerned with softer skills such as leadership qualities, empathy teamwork, persuasion and negotiation. While your qualification will prove your technical competence, it will become increasingly important to be able to demonstrate how you can build relationships and communicate effectively with differing levels of personnel.'

Neil Johnson, writer

"Candidates need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and muck in with all aspects of the business and not just focus on their core responsibilities. Companies want candidates who are readily adaptable and can change in evolving environments"

Andrew Setchell - Robert Walters