Four Key Skills for a New Era in Finance

How can those working in finance ensure they have a future?
Caitlin Stanway-WilliamsOctober 10, 2018
Four Key Skills for a New Era in Finance

LONDON — “Change is here, and there is no way to get around the fourth industrial revolution in finance,” Kathryn Sherratt, a CFO, opined at the CFO Rising Europe Summit in September.

The fourth industrial revolution is defined as an era in which there is a fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, collectively referred to as “cyber-physical systems.”

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But Sherratt, who is finance chief of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme, was not at the conference to tout new technologies. She was there to discuss how new technologies present human capital challenges for the office of the CFO.

The introduction of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence and its ilk, promises to change finance departments everywhere, she pointed out. “McKinsey says that robots will replace 800 million jobs by 2030,” warned Sherratt. “There is a fear that people will lose their jobs and the harsh reality is that some may.” However, many will take on new roles in the finance department.

That trend is expected to create a finance talent gap, as some may not have the skills to adapt. “We’ve gone from being in positions that revolve around preparation, figures, and Excel spreadsheets — the typical ‘bean-counter’ role — to becoming more of a strategic business partner,” said Sherratt.

But the change even goes beyond that. There will be true disruption in the skills needed in the finance department. How can those working in finance ensure they have a future? And how can they hone the needed skills to survive in this new era?

Sherratt outlined the following four key skills.


“I’d characterize adaptability as the ability to learn and develop — the quality of having an enquiring mind,” said Sherratt.

She argued for the importance of having a “growth mindset” — a mindset in which the individuals is open to investigating new things, instead of settling and being comfortable.

Adaptability will become increasingly important as finance roles face faster change than ever before. A McKinsey report recently predicted that “Individuals will need to adjust to a new world in which job turnover could be more frequent, they might have to transition to new types of employment, and they likely must continually refresh and update their skills to match the needs of a dynamically changing job market.”


“Flexibility is all about not only working across different disciplines and different business models, but also being able to show cultural and generational sensitivity,” Sherratt noted. In the modern workplace, people come together in virtual teams from many different countries. Finding a way to bridge cultural gaps and work together for a common goal will be a key to succeeding.

The generational gap is a really interesting part of this new workplace, Sherratt said. “There’s much talk about older workers coming back into the workplace with the new aspiration of the ‘100-year life,’ whereby people have a career throughout that time frame. As a millennial, how do you best interact with someone who is much older? How do you find that common language so you can work effectively as a team?”

The answer, again? Flexibility.


The accountability Sherratt spoke of was that of taking the responsibility of enhancing your skillset.

“Accountability is the skill to develop yourself,” said Sherratt. “Many people can help you once you get going, but you need to take that first step and take that initiative. You need to have some idea about what you want to achieve and what you want to contribute.”


The ability to think outside the box and drive change is the final skill that Sherratt highlighted. “Innovation, ideas, creativity, these are all key. Having a desire to improve do things differently and to challenge the status quo is so important.”

Overall, as the fourth industrial revolution approaches, it’s clear that being human has never been more important. Traits like emotional intelligence, creativity, intuition, and ethics will be crucial to finance departments in the future.

“The World Economic Forum talks about a skills revolution, and with this comes a raft of new opportunities” Sherratt concluded. “The face of finance is changing. Existing finance roles will morph, and instead we will see a focus on independent thinking, values, and teamwork as the repetitive and routine is replaced by automation.”

Check if you are eligible for free entry to the must-attend event for finance leaders, CFO Rising West in San Francisco, on October 17–18, 2018. Tickets start from $1,695 or are free for first-time attendees eligible for a VIP Pass. Apply with this simple form:

This article was initially published by Innovation Enterprise.

Image: Getty