22nd Feb 2023

How to attract and retain a Modern Finance Function with Michael Page

It’s easy to forget how technology has changed the way businesses operate over the past 10 years.  We take for granted that most businesses back then had a server room running systems that didn’t integrate, and nearly every complex task was run through an Excel spreadsheet at some point. And if you don’t agree, it’s very likely you’ve just forgotten! Cloud computing was definitely not commonplace however now it’s unusual to find a business that hasn’t embraced the cloud to some degree.  However, the challenge that all businesses are facing is to bring in and develop skills that can keep up with technological change. This change has, and will continue to, impact every department in every business.  Without the right skills, businesses can’t fully leverage the benefits technology can bring and run the risk of losing their competitive edge.   But what does this mean for your finance team? In this blog we will delve into how the finance department has changed over the last decade, how technology has changed the way the finance function operates and what this means for the ‘modern finance professional’.  


How has the finance department changed in the past 10 years? 

One significant development has been the emergence of new technologies to automate manual processes and reduce risk across operations, leading to digital transformation projects occurring more frequently. To adapt to this change, companies are now recruiting professionals with more technological skills, and adopting integrated, cloud-based systems to manage their company’s finances.   This shift towards technology has allowed finance professionals to move away from the traditional role of being stereotypical “bean counters”, and instead become more entrenched in organisations, and often at the forefront of making key decisions for the business.   Finance roles have evolved with a focus on adding value to a business meaning finance professionals often collaborate with other department such as sales and marketing to understand their objectives, and provide financial perspectives that can contribute to the overall profitability of a company, and work towards key business goals and objective.  COVID-19 has accelerated the role of finance departments in many businesses. The pandemic emphasized the value of good cash management, supply chain management, and access to data, all of which finance departments can help provide. As a result, there is a growing appreciation of the role finance can play in a business’s survival.  Companies want to attract CFOs who can modernize their finance function, with a focus on improving systems and processes and driving business partnering to support the company’s objectives. It’s these innovative, technology-enabled businesses that have seen the most success and growth over the last few years by adopting and adapting to change.   You can read more about the latest corporate banking operations trends here


What are the most in-demand skills currently within finance?  

The most in-demand skills within finance currently include: 
  • The ability to communicate effectively with non-finance professionals 
  • Embracing change and bringing new ideas 
  • Understanding and working with data 
  • Implementing systems and processes to ensure the integrity of data 
  • Driving compliance changes through the organization 
Alongside technology adoption, collaboration and better data management, compliance has also become a huge area of focus since the financial crisis.    Using technology like cash management tools can give businesses the visibility they need to make informed decisions with their money as well as automating bank feeds and ensuring there are secure payment controls across all accounts to reduce risk and prevent fraud.   Businesses are also looking to free up headcount to allocate in other areas of the business such as sales to aide company finance objectives. Companies now know they can work smarter and more be more tactical with their headcount decisions, utilising technology to replace manual, inefficient processes to streamline processes and protect business spending during the current , uncertain economic climate.    


What are the skills are become less relevant in the finance department? 

The skills that are becoming less relevant include data entry and manual processes that can be prone to errors. With the advent of fully integrated systems that can talk to all parts of the business and third-party platforms, there is less need for manual reconciliation of data and inputs. Instead, the focus is on leveraging data and information to drive the business forward.   Overall, it is important for individuals to continuously develop their skills and stay up to date with technological advancements to remain relevant in the workforce.  Read more about the Digital Savvy Finance Professional in our Global Corporate to Bank Integration eBook  corporate-to-bank-integration-ebook-cta-banner  

What skills should finance leaders hire for? 

The finance team of the future is likely to be more technology-driven and less reliant on manual, error-prone processes. Finance leaders will need to hire for skills that embrace automation and technology, and that can extract value from data to drive profitability and reduce costs. AI and other advanced technologies will play a more significant role in financial decision-making, and businesses that do not embrace these changes may struggle to survive.  In fact, boards are placing increased emphasis on finance leaders to deliver this insight and performance, with the finance function having a specific focus on the corporate strategy, technology, and automation. Having the right people who understand how to implement technology and make it fit in the business will be key to success.  

In fact, a 2021 report from McKinsey & Company reported that the share of finance leaders who say they’re responsible for their company’s digital activities has more than tripled since as recent as 2016.   McKinsey & Company. 2021.  Mastering change:  The new CFO mandate. Since then we have also conducted an event with Lloyds Bank which has cited: 

You can read the full report here



Advice for how finance leaders should attract and retain top talent 

The main focus should be  on retention because if top talent is retained, it becomes easier to hire new people. Pay is a key element in attracting and retaining talent, especially given the high inflation rate. However, paying the most in the market is not enough to attract the best people. The buying demands of candidates have changed and are far more complex than were previously.  A typical candidate criterion used to be limited to: company culture, travelling time, salary, and job title.    Now company culture extends to its Equality, Diversity & Incllusion (ED&I and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) , net zero carbon policy, and charity work. The wider benefits such as paternity/maternity leave, cycle-to-work scheme, pension, commitment to development and progression are front-of-mind with candidates, as is remote/flexible working (with fully office-based roles now the most unattractive roles).  Specifically within the finance function, candidates care about the ERP system used, the data analysis solutions, appetite (and budget) for change, and the make-up of talent within the team. It appears that to retain and attract people, businesses must offer a unique experience that combines technology, job security and flexible (and now often non-negotiable) preferences for each individual candidate.    To find out more about what the modern finance professional looks like, the advantages they can bring for businesses and how to attract and retain them, watch the full interview below with Dan Eaton, Operating Director (Finance) from Michael Page, one of the top 10 recruitment firms in the UK.




You may also be interested in about the Employment Value Proposition from Michael Page.




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