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Soft skills are career positive for finance professionals

Finance is not just about numbers – you must be able to communicate effectively. Jo Faragher talks to directors, recruiters and accountants about the challenges.

Historically, there’s been a perception of the finance profession that the focus is on data – a safe pair of hands performing the calculations and coming up with projections, while an enigmatic CEO turns those figures into a compelling story for customers and shareholders. Increasingly, though, finance professionals are being called upon to present and create a narrative around those all-important numbers, and are brushing up their skills accordingly.

‘Hierarchy in many businesses has become a bit flatter, so rather than finance professionals being shut away doing calculations, they’ll now often have to present them as well,’ explains Shaun Thomson, from sales training company Sandler Training. ‘Company finance people have to be able to come back and translate the technical stuff into a common language for business owners. It’s not good enough for business leaders to say “I’ll leave that to my financial advisers” anymore – they have to understand what they’re saying.’ Mike Sergeant, a former BBC correspondent and founder of Sergeant Leadership Communications, agrees, ‘The numbers only ever tell part of the story. The spreadsheet gives us the dots, but we always need to join them into a picture and apply some paint.’ Every pitch, presentation and speech is a mixture of excitement and reassurance. Those in finance need to reassure with their analysis, numbers and professional qualities, but they also need to motivate teams, excite clients and ‘sometimes inspire people about big ideas.’

This is an extract from an article in the Communication skills special report, March 2018.  

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