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Nurturing talent in finance Back  
The changing environment of the financial world demands that financial professionals are able to enhance their skills with competencies such as change management, strategic thinking, innovation and flexibility. However, a new survey published by Deloitte, The Finance Talent Challenge: How leading CFOs are taking charge, has found that half of chief financial officers (CFOs) believe their finance team demonstrates the skills that are needed to align finance with the business write Shane Mohan and Alan Flanagan.
It€s not surprising that in a financial world dominated by Sarbanes-Oxley and similar regulatory initiatives, chief financial officers (CFOs) have spent the last few years highly focused on stewardship and financial operations. Now that the compliance dust is settling, CFOs are reinvigorating their focus on their broader remit, namely:

€ Providing financial leadership in determining strategic business direction and aligning financial strategies
€ Stimulating behaviours across the organisation to achieve strategic and financial objectives
Most CFOs have recognised this rebalancing of priorities, but few have properly prepared their finance organisations to evolve with it €‘ particularly in relation to people.

The Finance Talent Challenge:
How leading CFOs are taking charge is a new global survey conducted by Deloitte in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that reveals how CFOs need to use a new breed of finance talent to go beyond the traditional role of the steward and become a more strategic contributor to the business. The study reflects insights on a range of issues, including the evolving role of the CFO, the future of the finance function and the challenges related to attracting and retaining talent.
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The survey of 636 senior finance executives reveals that only 50 per cent of respondents believe their finance team demonstrates the skills that are needed to align finance with the business or stimulate the business to achieve its goals. Yet few CFOs have developed a formal and deliberate strategy for identifying and nurturing finance talent.

The results present a vivid picture of the uphill battle many CFOs face to populate their finance organisations with high-potential individuals who can support and partner the business, to help ensure corporate performance is maximised and sustained.

Key findings
The key findings from the survey can be summarised as follows:
€ Many finance organisations are ill-equipped to excel in value-adding activities
€ People from financial planning and analysis (FP&A) backgrounds are highly sought-after as future finance leaders, but these people are among the hardest to find
€ Branding the company as a career destination for finance professionals is critical for attracting finance talent, but few companies do it well
€ Many finance organisations fail to capitalise on the graduate pool as a source of young, talented individuals. Fifty-two per cent of CFOs say internships are a valuable tactic in attracting high-potential students and boosting a company€s reputation,
but 35 per cent of CFOs say one of the most significant challenges in attracting talent is that recent graduates don€t see their company€s finance organisation as a career launcher
€ Career development is critical to high-flyers, and yet many companies keep finance talent from pursuing opportunities outside finance. Career advancement tops the list of frequently cited reasons that talented finance people give when they leave their jobs
€ Few (28 per cent) agree finance routinely provides talented individuals with opportunities outside of finance, and 38 per cent say their finance organisations are reluctant to release talent to other departments within the company so they can further develop their skill sets and increase their knowledge of the company. This runs contrary
to the expectation that finance professionals have a strong knowledge of the business
€ The issue of finance talent and demand is truly global. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents from Asia-Pacific cited that the current supply of finance talent is either limited or inadequate, with 54 per cent of respondents from Eastern Europe; 53 per cent from Asia-Pacific; 52 per cent from Western Europe; and 47 per cent from North America stating that finance talent will be limited or inadequate in three to five years
€ Finance leaders urge those with CFO ambitions to take deliberate career steps and earn diverse business experience.

Taking charge of finance talent
CFOs must be deliberate in defining what competencies finance talent requires, where to find it, and how to deploy and develop talented individuals. Figure 1 sets out some of the key talent management programmes currently in place within finance organisations or expected to be in place within the next three to five years. Clearly there is work to be done. For example, only 28 per cent of respondents have a finance competency model in place. Without knowing what are the key skills and attributes that your finance people must have, it is hard to put in place other mechanisms to develop these people.

The greatest change in the future is expected to be the rising use of alternative sourcing strategies e.g. outsourcing to other regions or specialist providers, which in themselves are not without challenges.

Developing and retaining talent
Once talented individuals have been recruited into the finance organisation, the priority is then to develop and retain them. Major barriers identified by the survey include lack of opportunities for professional development and career enhancement. On the other hand many organisations are adopting proactive approaches to developing talent as illustrated in Figure 2.

Demand for finance talent is high and is outstripping supply. The list of sought after skills is moving beyond technical capabilities as business operations grow more complex. The greatest imperative is for CFOs to populate their finance organisations with people who know how to support and promote current and potential business opportunities. Traditional finance competencies in areas such as accounting, reporting, compliance and bottom line orientation, will need to be enhanced with competencies such as change management, strategic thinking, innovation and flexibility. This can only be achieved by creating a focus on value, developing and nurturing new finance leaders, branding finance as a career launcher, and committing to attracting, developing and retaining top finance talent.

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