The future of finance talent

Deborah Kops and Jamie Lyon, April 2013. This report suggests a number of trends that could affect finance talent management in the future. It focuses particularly on the implications of further growth in shared services, outsourcing, the rise of global business services and their relationships with the retained finance organisation. These trends are intended to stimulate the debate on the future of talent management in global finance functions.


In September 2012, ACCA reported the results of a short survey on talent management in global finance functions. The survey sought to understand the extent of adoption and effectiveness of talent practices, especially in light of the shift to moving transactional processes into shared services centres. The results suggested a paucity of effective talent practices across the spectrum of finance, isolating finance process delivery from the rest of the finance function, from shared service centres through to the ‘retained’ function.

In the broader context, given the speed of business change in response to globalisation, regulatory changes, and other factors, it is imperative for the CFO to ensure that his or her finance function stays a step ahead in today’s competitive environment. No longer are CFOs focused only on the role of finance stewardship of the organisation: they must now act to support sustainable business growth. No longer are CFOs only the gatekeepers for meeting regulatory requirements: they must design and implement operations that create competitive advantage. No longer are CFOs focused solely on the provision of financial information: they must provide actionable business insights. These requirements mean that today’s finance leaders must define and leverage global finance – and management – capabilities across their teams in new and innovative ways.

At the same time, finance careers are increasingly less linear, while the traditional career paths through the finance organisation are becoming less clear. The appointment of some CFOs who have not come up through the traditional finance career paths and the shift to deliver finance operations through global shared services and outsourcing have implications for the future of finance talent. These developments place an acute responsibility on the finance organisation to understand fully the capabilities required to create value, and the need to establish talent development programmes to supply the future needs of the business.

The talent agenda in finance is also affected by broader changes across the finance workforce, changing demographics, the globalisation of business operations and the development of more complex entity structures. Technological advances also have a greater impact on the learning curriculum and, with the advent of mobile learning, will facilitate greater access and more targeted pushed interventions for different parts of the finance community. On the flip side, however, there is growing interest in robotic software and increased automation of transactional finance activity, which affects headcount and ways of working. The role of the future finance workforce will be shaped increasingly by technology, one way or another.