In the modern global economy, data is king. Companies are relying more and more on insights gathered from social, machine, and transactional data to make decisions and drive growth.
Data-driven insights are especially crucial when it comes to an organization’s finance team. Companies want financial professionals who can confidently analyze massive amounts of incoming data. However, there is a growing gap between the skills of the ideal financial analyst and the actual talent pool.
Moreover, the right tech skills aren’t enough. The modern corporate financial analyst needs both hard skills and soft skills so they can establish cross-departmental collaboration, identify emerging trends, and think strategically.
Let’s take a look at how big data is changing the face of finance and what skills you’ll need to become a more strategic corporate financial analyst.
Big Data and the Vital Role of the Corporate Financial Analyst
It’s no secret that the global economy is rapidly evolving. Accelerating innovations in technology, the ascendant economic power of China, and growing political uncertainty have all come together to define the modern economy in the 21st century.
The Rise of Big Data
Perhaps most notable among these changes is the rise of big data. In the last century, and even as recently as the last decade, the global economy was ruled by industrially-based companies producing physical goods. But today, the economy’s most successful players—Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple—are all tech-focused companies.
As a result, the new commodity in our economy is data, and it’s changing the way companies do business. With huge influxes of social, machine, and transactional data, organizations must now spend considerable time and effort figuring out how to store, analyze, and act on this information.
How Big Data Affects Finance
Big data has been especially transformative in the field of finance. Financial professionals have always relied on data and numbers to solve problems. But today, many companies have more financial data than they know what to do with.
To deal with this ever-increasing influx of data, organizations are incorporating trained data professionals and analysts into their financial teams. Professionals with data and business analysis skills have the know-how to leverage big data and help their companies make more informed and strategic decisions.
Many accountants and financial professionals are already intimately familiar with numbers and quantitative analysis. Those in finance are, therefore, well-poised to transform their skill set and take on the challenges facing companies in today’s data-centric economy.
Here are the key skills that you’ll need to master if you want to become a more strategic corporate financial analyst.
Data is now the top commodity in today’s economy. As a result, companies are looking for ways to efficiently sort through and make sense of their mountains of data. That’s where data analytics comes in.
Data analytics is the process of analyzing raw data and drawing conclusions. It allows businesses to find trends and drive strategic decision-making. And in terms of the finance department, data analytics can help CFOs develop financial forecasts and models, predict market changes, analyze customer behavior, and gain an advantage over competitors.
Learn Big Data, Become an Asset
Corporate financial analysts who are fluent in data analytics can make valuable company-wide contributions by helping their organizations take command of the flow of data. But despite the increasing demand for data analysis skills, big data expertise is lacking in most finance departments. That means a firm grasp of data analytics can set you apart as a financial analyst and make you an asset to your company.
As a financial professional, you should already be quite comfortable with data and quantitative analysis. To give yourself a competitive edge, consider getting a professional certification in data analytics, taking online courses to learn new programming languages, and networking within your company to learn how data analysis is used.
Focus on Real-Time Analytics
There are many types of data analytics, but the key focus for financial professionals should be real-time analytics.
C-suite executives are becoming more sensitive to changes within their organizations. Additionally, CFOs are taking on a more central role in the leadership of modern companies. The CFO advises the CEO and also helps other executives accomplish their goals while staying on budget.
With real-time analytics, companies can track changes and trends as they occur. The financial analyst with the skills to provide real-time insights to the CFO can have a major impact on the company’s decisions and future direction.
Financial Analysts’ Strategic Thinking
To become a more strategic corporate financial analyst, you’ll need to change the way you think. The CFO must keep an eye on the bigger picture if they want to grow the company. This requires strategic thinking.
But if you believe thinking strategically is only for senior executives, be prepared to get left behind. That’s because strategic thinking is crucial at every level of an organization. And for a financial professional, strategic thinking can drive data-driven, actionable conclusions that improve the company’s bottom line.
As a result, companies put a high price on strategically minded financial analysts. If you’re looking to ascend the corporate ladder and help bring success to your company, work on improving your strategic thinking skills. Here are three tips for becoming a more strategic thinker.
1. Observe and Reflect
When you’re flooded with meetings, clients, and administrative tasks, it can be easy to put on the blinders and focus only on the immediate task at hand. However, strategic thinking requires that you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Without a solid understanding of the context, drivers, and trends in your business, you could be missing key information, which leads to poor prioritization and downright bad decision-making. Make it a habit to regularly step back, reflect, and synthesize the trends in your day-to-day work.
2. Ask Hard Questions
The strategic thinker is the person who is always curious and looks at information from every conceivable angle. They’re also not afraid to ask the tough questions:
- “Why do we need to care about this issue?”
- “What are the points both for and against this decision?”
- “How do we assess early success or failure so we can pivot if needed?”
This mindset will allow you to see different approaches and different potential outcomes.
3. Break Down Organizational Silos
If you hope to put your strategic plan into action, you’ll need to reach out and interact with teams other than your own. Break down organizational silos by seeking out the opinions and viewpoints of different departments within your company.
This leads us to our next skill: collaboration. With the CFO taking on a more central leadership role in most modern companies, the office of the CFO must be able to work collaboratively.
Additionally, financial data is no longer collected and analyzed in a vacuum within the finance department. Company-wide decision-making is affected by the trends found in the organization’s financial data. That means financial analysts must be able to effectively summarize and communicate key financial takeaways to the non-finance experts in their company.
Collaboration requires its own unique set of skills, including:
- Dealing with diverse personalities
- Juggling differing departmental priorities
- Judiciously resolving conflicts when they arise
- Translating financial jargon for the layperson
These soft skills aren’t as easy to master as the technical skills that are traditionally required for financial professionals. But with a conscious focus on personal development, anyone can become a better collaborator.
The data-intensive finance and IT departments often work closely together. Financial analysts with the skills to work effectively with IT are the ones who will be leading the pack within their own department and the company at large.
Picking up new tech skills shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the quantitative mind of a financial analyst. Data security and privacy, cloud migration, and machine learning are all relevant topics for a financial analyst. Consider pursuing a professional certification to beef up your resume and demonstrate your technical abilities.
To get ahead in today’s data-centric economy, companies are relying more heavily on data-driven insights to direct decision-making. That means companies are looking for financial analysts who can handle big data and think strategically.
Despite this demand, there’s a growing skills gap in the finance departments of most companies. You can set yourself apart from other financial professionals by mastering skills such as data analytics, strategic thinking, collaboration, and information technology.
Looking to transform your finance team with powerful data analytics? insightsoftware offers business analytics solutions that’s fast, accurate, efficient, and flexible. Request a demo now!