If so, data from this small global survey may offer some insights into talent acquisition and retention to support digital transformation.

An Aug/Sep 2021 survey of 1,150 C-suite executives and finance professionals across the US, the UK, Germany, France, Singapore and Australia (in firms with different minimum revenues*) has revealed that only about 14% of CFOs globally were confident that their finance function had the skills required to help their organization grow and adapt over the next five years. 

This may suggest that talent acquisition and retention are high on the respondents’ agenda as firms seek to implement more aggressive growth strategies post-pandemic. 

In detecting a skills gap that threatens F&A’s ability to provide the consultancy, analysis, planning and due diligence required to support broader business goals, the data in this study also yielded other observations:  

  • 32% of C-suite respondents indicated they were planning to focus more on international markets for growth and acquisitions; 24% were plan to be more aggressive when it comes to acquisitive growth over the next 12 months, skills will be critical. 
  • 36% of C-suite respondents planned to invest heavily in talent, with about 36% focusing on developing existing talent from within, and 35% focusing on new talent acquisition at a leadership level to drive post-pandemic recovery and growth.
  • 42% of CFO respondents indicated that maintaining a robust balance sheet was their number one priority; 39% mentioned finding opportunities for organic growth. 
  • 52% of CFO respondents indicated being concerned about a shortage of people with finance and accounting knowledge, while 45% were concerned with the ability to retain the right talent.
  • 44% of respondents indicated that not everyone in their finance team had the broad business leadership knowledge or skills required today. Some 39% indicated that not everyone in their finance team had the skills to help with more strategic work like analysis and planning.
  • 52% of CFOs indicated they did not currently have enough people with software and technology experience within the finance function.
  • 25% of overall respondents noted that it was difficult to find candidates with both technology and F&A skills.
  • When asked about the biggest negative impact on finance employee retention the top three issues were: a lack of opportunities to develop new skills because transactional work was taking up so much time (27%); career development and upskilling are not priorities in the organization (27%); and a lack of flexible working options (25%).
  • 49% of C-suit executives and finance professionals cited the perception of F&A being a siloed function without any inter-department collaboration opportunities as the main reason for people not joining the field. A further 39% cited the perception that F&A roles require a lot of time-consuming, manual work as the cause of people not joining the industry.
  • 27% of C-suite and F&A professionals in the survey believed academic courses need to focus more on technology skills. Some 30% of the same respondents indicated that most people do not have enough experience with modern accounting technology at the start of their career.
  • 34% of C-suites and finance professionals in the survey indicated that legacy technology and processes at their organization made it difficult to attract the best candidates, compared to 25% citing offering a competitive salary (25%) as hurdle. 

According to Terry Smagh, Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific, BlackLine, the firm commissioning this survey: “We’re in a period of reopening and economic recovery. This makes it vital for the finance function, which lies at the heart of business, to be appropriately skilled to address the many challenges ahead. At the heart of it, business leaders must ensure we retain and develop the people we have and are also in a position to attract the best the market has to offer.”

Smagh continued: “Finding people with the right technology and F&A skills seems to be at the crux of the issue. We need to reevaluate tools, training and development, in addition to the perceived role that F&A plays within the business, to attract the best and brightest finance talent moving forward. Delivery of business growth as opposed to pure survival will be dependent upon building a finance function that is as technology literate as it is financially literate. People need to be freed from the mundane and given the space to focus on strategic business insight and value.” 

* Revenue criteria: UK: £50m, France: €50m, Germany: €50m, Singapore: SG$20m, US: US$150m, Australia: A$20m