In our most recent installment of the Reo interview series, we sat down with Eddie Foo, Head of Planning & Analysis at CPB Contractors. We discussed how to effectively make transitions in your career, some key traits of outstanding leaders and where the finance industry is going in the future.
What advice would you give to technical accountants who want to make the transition into a more commercially focused role?
You need to keep abreast of current economic and financial events. Start by following news articles from industries that you are looking to enter, seek out information to understand how businesses within those industries work.
In commercial roles, employers don't look for someone to just churn out a spreadsheet.
In commercial roles, employers don't look for someone to just churn out a spreadsheet, they need someone who understands the business and its performance drivers. You need to be able to address commercial and operational problems with data-driven insights and be able to partner with management to build solutions.
Utilise the knowledge in your network to help you with this and think about having a career mentor that has already successfully transitioned from technical to commercial.
When you moved over from a technical role to a commercial facing role, what were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was proving to non-finance stakeholders at a GM / Executive level that I was able to add value to their team. Non-finance stakeholders once thought of me as a compliance person, someone who is just good with Excel. To overcome this I took the time to understand their challenges and asked them intelligent business related questions. By understanding their day-to-day challenges I was able to work with them and present viable solutions. I had to change my mindset and not focus on reconciling and compliance but focus on innovation and insight creation.
What are the 3 attributes that you believe characterises a successful business partner?
- An ability to build rapport effortlessly
- A naturally inquisitive nature, a willingness to always challenging the norm
- A knack for understanding your audience's financial literacy and the ability to tailor the communication of financial concepts accordingly
What have been the behaviours of the best leaders you have worked with?
The best leadership quality I've experienced comes from leaders who are genuinely invested in your career. It's important to surround yourself among leaders who take the time to develop and support you – especially early in your career.
You want leaders who will support your development as a professional.
How do you think the career of an accountant will change over the coming years?
With technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) evolving, your traditional book keeping accountant will no longer exist. Companies will have a small group of people who review the data out of the ERP system and have a larger team of analysts who provide insights. The bigger businesses are slow to adopt this framework as many remain compliance-centric. Many start-ups and smaller cap companies are already engaging in this space as there is less bureaucracy and they are generally more tech-savvy.
Do you see any significant emerging trends in the finance function?
Our functions will be much more technology focused. The challenge for the current C-suites is to drive the agenda of putting technology at the forefront of change. It can be easily dismissed as the payback for investing in finance technology is often unclear and difficult to measure. Early adopters will definitely have a strategic advantage in the long-term.
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