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Qualifications Vs. Competency: How to Modernise Your Skillset

In order to progress in the market and encourage new business, modern accountancy practices need to build up new skillsets.

In the face of evolving technology and increasing regulation, structural changes and increasing complexity, accountancy teams needs to ensure they not only remain relevant but actively shift towards modernity. Young and new accountants need more than just qualifications and basic ability, and senior staff members need to develop new core skills to succeed and grow their practice in this new landscape.

49% of businesses admitted that they had serious skills gaps in their businesses.

The search for modern skills

Qualifications remain the backbone of a strong candidate but they don’t count as much as they once did. For example, since 2005, all publicly quoted entities prepare their accounts in accordance with IFRS. Most accountants currently practising qualified before then, meaning that their accounting qualifications have little direct relevance to the work they do, pushing the need for compulsory CPD.

"The market also wants ‘people who think differently'," - Gavin Aspden, ICAEW director of qualifications.

Watch the video now: Finance professionals must master these skills

Develop a commercial streak

The need to understand broader management capabilities means that strong commercial knowledge and analytical capability is fundamental. Accountants need to understand the commercial realities of the businesses they are working with in order to be able to meet the client’s needs fully. They are no longer expected to carry out core fiduciary responsibilities but also partner with the business to drive financial insight and support strategic direction.

"Modern accountants need to be able to advise on business strategy, operations, systems and people as well as finance and this means an in-depth understanding of their clients and of their clients' businesses." - Nick Winters, RSM Tenon's head of audit for London.

Strengthen communication skills

It goes without saying that accountants need to know how to communicate - so why is it a skill which so many fail to develop? Accountants need to listen to the client, communicate the expectations of the service and explain the results. Face to face interaction is crucia when following up with clients and documenting the services your firm has provided - and a failure to communicate well will overshadow your firm’s value. You’ll risk losing clients by failing to maintain a good relationship, and you certainly won’t have any additional referrals coming your way.

“Business growth and new product and service expansion now require commercial accountants with strong business acumen and communication skills to deliver augmentation strategies.” - Robert Half Finance & Accounting Salary Guide 2014

Introduce modern technology

Research by Robert Half identified technological know-how as the second most valued skill after commercial acumen. From improving FCA compliance, mobile working and uptime through hosted technology to growing a pool of connections on LinkedIn and other social media, technological prowess can prove an invaluable addition to any accountancy practice’s skillset.

“Young accountants need to understand these new social media tools and how to use LinkedIn to build peer-to-peer networks and Twitter to ‘listen' to clients, thought leaders and intermediaries." - Paul Thomas, digital senior manager at Grant Thornton.

Most valued attributes or areas of expertise

In addition to traditional accounting knowledge:

Commercial/business acumen: 41%

Technology skills: 23%

Team building/collaboration: 19%

Communication skills: 12%

Leadership abilities: 4%

Customer service orientation: 3%

View the report now: Robert Half Finance & Accounting Salary Guide 2014


1. Audit the skills you have and map out any required.

2. Outline which skills can be developed in house and which require additional training.

3. Think about role experience programmes as a way to build skillsets.

4. Consider employee engagement levels and work to encourage personal development.

5. Identify any new tools or technology which could improve functionality and build skills.

Get your free eGuide now: The key characteristics of a modern, profitable accountancy practice


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