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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Finance change creates skills shortage for UK companies

The vast majority (81 per cent) of UK executives want to form stronger partnerships between the finance department and other parts of the business, according to a new research report from recruitment specialist Robert Half UK. 

However, a third of executives (33 per cent) say that they find it difficult to source candidates with the right experience to implement a business partnering approach. Nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) report that it is very difficult to retrain existing traditional finance professionals to take on a business partnering role and as a result, 70 per cent will be looking externally for talent whether via the recruitment of permanent employees (35 per cent) or interim professionals (35 per cent).

The report gauges the progress that companies in the UK (and their European counterparts) have made in developing finance business partnerships and the problems faced in embedding such partnerships within the organisation. 

A range of drivers are pushing finance partnering to become mission critical in the UK: they include the increased complexity of business, more intense competition, technological change and greater business volatility. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of UK respondents believe that economic uncertainty increases the need for a company's finance function to develop business partnering capabilities.

Phil Sheridan, managing director, Robert Half UK, said: "The research highlights a new skills gap for finance departments who want to make the transition from traditional accountancy to add extra value across their organisations, including optimising the performance of the business, providing support for better business decision-making, and improving risk management throughout the organisation. Our research shows that the vast majority of finance teams see the requirement to change, but lack the right people to put it into practice." 

The survey reveals SMEs share many similarities with larger companies when it comes to business partnering. Indeed, business partnering is equally accepted in SMEs and larger businesses alike: nearly half (45 per cent), respectively, feel that wider acceptance from the business is necessary to enable partnering to prosper. 

Despite the clear commitment by executives at large and small companies alike to push through change, nearly one in four (24 per cent) UK respondents struggle to implement business partnering properly, and only half (50 per cent) have a function that is fully embedded across the organisation.

"Finance needs specific talent programmes to identify and develop business partners, and manage their careers, in a structured way. Job rotation, foreign assignments and job shadowing have a role in facilitating the necessary skills and experience. Attracting finance personnel with the right profile may require a rethink of traditional career paths for finance executives: aspiring finance business partners need to see that there are clear and exciting opportunities to further develop their careers within the business," Sheridan concluded. 


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