Part 1 in the Future of Finance blog series. You can view the full series here.
As the pace of business accelerates, the complexity of financial regulations deepens, and technology advances, the tide is changing in the world of Accounting and Finance. In the face of this change, organizations are adopting new practices to future-proof their operations.
InTheBlack arms accounting and finance professionals with the information they need to make their own waves of change.
At last year’s conference, BlackLine CFO Mark Partin hosted a panel on the Future of Finance, featuring: Molly Boyle, former Controller at Under Armour; Manny Korakis, Global Corporate Controller at American Express Global Business Travel; and Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, Chief Accounting Officer at Xero.
In part one of this blog series, the panel addresses the changing landscape of talent management within Accounting and Finance, the evolution of roles and responsibilities, and the impact that today’s recruiting and retention practices will have down the line.
Mark Partin: Talent management is something that’s talked about a lot, and there’s a divide between Finance and accountants. Accountants are holding on tight to their traditional roles while Finance is embracing new things. How do you think about Finance and Accounting in your departments?
Molly Boyle: At Under Armour, we’re fortunate that our company was built on the principles of change, innovation, and growth. But we’ve noticed that, as accountants, we have this defined set of responsibilities.
So it’s a constant challenge relating to talent—how do we attract people who want to do interesting things, that can deliver and bring value to us as an organization, and who aren’t going to get burned out on some of those recurring tasks?
In Accounting, different groups are constantly trying to figure out how they can do their jobs smarter—not harder. And honestly, BlackLine has been a huge piece of that innovation for our accounting function.
Mark Partin: Forbes published an article recently about what we need to do as finance and accounting leaders to recruit and retain millennial talent. Briefly talk about how you are future proofing Accounting and Finance.
Molly Boyle: We always want to recruit the best talent possible, whether that be millennials or not. I’ve had the joy of being responsible for our college recruiting within Accounting and Finance, and we’ve noticed that even summer interns are interested in doing more meaningful work. They don’t want to make copies, they don’t want to get coffee, and so on.
Giving people meaningful work empowers them to feel like they have a seat at the table, can make suggestions, and drive change. I think the more that Accounting and Finance focus our efforts on work that’s interesting to our talent, the better we’ll be able to retain good talent.
To recruit and retain, we have to let go of the notion that you have to suffer in Accounting, do ticks and ties on yellow paper, and work long hours.
Mark Partin: Absolutely. Kirsty—your company is growing rapidly. You’re based in New Zealand but operate in many parts of the world. How do you think about future proofing Accounting and Finance to grow and build an accounting team that can help the organization long term?
Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: It’s about recruiting not for today, but for tomorrow. Everything I do is with the future mindset of how we will utilize a person in a role, and how the processes and systems already in place are going to work in three to five years’ time.
I’m not looking for somebody who is right for the business today. I’m looking for somebody who’s going to take us through to that billion dollars of revenue.
It’s about getting people who are comfortable with change. The only constant I can guarantee is that things are going to change. We’re looking at the way we’re doing things all the time and just trying to ensure that we are future proofing everything.
The journey that we’ve been on over the last 20 months is ensuring that we’re moving toward Continuous Accounting with BlackLine, and ensuring a better future for Accounting and Finance.
Mark Partin: Manny, you must handle this all the time: the divide of Finance and Accounting and the ability to deal with change. Talk about that for a minute.
Manny Korakis: We looked at whether we wanted to formally divide Finance and Accounting and make it two distinct groups or if we wanted to combine those skill sets. I’m not sure if there’s a great answer today, but it’s more important that. As we think about the future, we understand these roles as a spectrum of different responsibilities and skillsets.
You start with your basic core accounting and operations roles and work your way up to the CFO. It’s not enough to just be a CFO anymore. You’ve got to take it a step further. We call it business partnering when Finance helps run operations, and that filters down through the organization.
So, my view is that it’s not about splitting Finance and Accounting or focusing on one more than the other. It’s about taking finance and accounting skills and figuring out how to work better with the business to become better operators.
Mark Partin: You can picture embedding accountants and finance people in different operations within the group. In the end, that’s a part of getting them out into the operations of the business itself.
Talent management is key in the push to future-proof finance and accounting departments. And utilizing the unique skillsets of people in Accounting and Finance has positive implications for the strategic trajectory of entire organizations.
Technology is an instrumental force in recognizing the potential of our talent pools and enabling them to add the most value possible to our businesses.
Read part two of this blog series to dive into the panel’s thoughts on the evolution of technology, and how to prepare for the widespread adoption of finance automation.