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The rising demand for digital skills in the finance industry

by Mike Jones in Digital Technology, finance 25/11/2020

Digital transformation has accelerated in many businesses this year and as a result, the demand for finance professionals with data analytical skills has never been higher.

The Future of Jobs Report 2020 created by the World Economic Forum (WEF) investigates how automation, in collaboration with the impacts of the Covid-19 recession has generated an even more disruptive outcome. The report suggests that there is likely to be a significant change in jobs, duties and skills within the next few years, with finance, accounting and auditing being areas likely to be impacted and data analytics and data science considered the high growth markets.

The trend identified in the report is supported by recent figures in the finance and accounting industry and a shift in roles towards digital and technical duties in response to the pandemic. The demand for upskilling has become even more important, and in the case of finance, this translates into a greater focus on business planning and analysis. This change comes with a need to enhance digital skills in business, with the report suggesting that 2 in 5 business leaders are committed to accelerating digital transformation plans. A separate study by EY discovered similar findings, suggesting that nearly 60% of all respondents believed predictive and prescriptive analytical skills were critical.

With digital transformation plans accelerating, the data available to support the decision-making process is increasing. The finance industry needs to be capable of utilising this data to support its own individual decision-making plans. 

The situation, however, is that the skills currently aren’t’ there to meet the rising demand. Consultancy business McKinsey states that under 20% of businesses believe they have the necessary skills and experience to gather and utilise the insights effectively. A further 80% of respondents interviewed by McKinsey said they did not have the confidence in their data insight processes and their positive impact on business sales.

There generally tends to be a lack of knowledge surrounding the potential of data. Businesses may have more data availability than ever before, but most don’t really know what the data is or what it could actually enable them to do.

Data analytics professionals within finance can support businesses in effectively using the data. These individuals have certain skills that enable them to respond to certain information points and make informed decisions. Insights can only be delivered if there is a clear understanding of the business and what the data is telling you. Individuals need to be capable of connecting data analytics to the overall strategy and business objectives.

McKinsey describes the importance of data translators, people capable of defining data insights, drawing information from the data and converting this information into clear, actionable language that can be applied within the business. Once data is generated into insights, this information needs to be transferred into messages and offers that can be delivered into the wider business and industry.

 

Finance professionals have generally been responsible for gathering financial information and presenting it to other individuals in their business. The key difference today is the sheer scale and range of data available from multiple sources. This is a challenge in itself, but it also offers the opportunity to add even more value to a business.

Data analytics involves harnessing skills in both technical and non-technical fields. The collection and assessment of detailed data also create new ethical factors that finance professionals will need to consider. Aside from efficiently extracting, measuring and analysing data, finance professionals need to understand the ethical implications of this entire process.

Industry experts believe that digitisation will generate automation further into traditional finance and accountancy roles. The need for finance professionals capable of interpreting data and delivering clear decisions based on data-driven insights is likely to continue to grow. The world is evolving, business is changing and finance professionals will need to change too.