Career opportunities and skills finance professionals should look out for to stay on top of their game
Blockchain, Automation in finance function, Cyber security, Data Privacy will create opportunities according to these finance leaders.
As we move forward, the finance industry is becoming more complex in nature.
How can finance professionals navigate the ever-changing finance landscape, and stay on top of their game?
The Finance Story spoke to Finance Leaders to understand what their predictions are for the near future.
According to them, finance professionals should be cognizant of these trends; Forensics, Cyber Security, Blockchain, Automation in finance functions and Crypto.
Here is a breakdown of their opinions:
First on our list is Blockchain. It has made quite an uproar in every sector possible, especially in the last few years. Even though it was originally created in 2008.
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology that is here to transform the finance industry, or as these finance leaders point out, the process has already started.
Aanchal Thakur, Chartered Accountant and Co-founder of Spherium Finance - a decentralised finance (DeFi) platform says,
“In fact, a few banking organizations have already started adopting blockchain for cross-border transfer of funds. Most banks are doing POCs, to ensure that the technology works for them.
Normally, CAs use the double-entry bookkeeping method. In Blockchain, there is a concept called the triple-entry accounting system, which seals transactions cryptographically, making it impossible to alter entries.
A finance professional might be interested in that aspect of Blockchain, which will enable automated auditing.”
Resonating with Aanchal is Kartik Radia, Founding and Managing Partner of Baker Tilly Business Advisory Services (Erstwhile Mazars India).
“I also strongly believe blockchain will dramatically change the way we conduct audits.
Once a block (cluster of data) is closed, it cannot be re-opened or changed and it can only be connected to another block through a chain, which is known as a blockchain.
This will bring transparency, security, and governance. But underlying transactions will have to be audited and validated and assurance will have to be still given.”
Transparency and security, two of the features of blockchain technology, are also fundamental requirements in the finance industry. This might make finance professionals lean toward blockchain.
But how long before it becomes mainstream?
Robin Banerjee, Managing Director at Caprihans India Ltd, and a seasoned finance leader had a different point of view,
“Blockchain is the technology of the future, to put it simply.
It is a shared database that maintains records of transactions between ten or twelve separate bodies of debits and credits, a self-auditing online system of recording transactions.
This concept looks very simple, but building businesses on the blockchain is not fully commercialized yet.”
CA Amarjit Chopra, who is the Former President of ICAI and Founder of one of the oldest CA firms in India, assures us that Blockchain will not take away an auditor's job...
"Blockchain will probably make sure that fraudulent practices get reduced, but if you think that the recorded transaction on the blockchain doesn't need to be audited, then you're wrong. It’s also going to get audited, but yes, different tools will be required for that."
The concept of blockchain is to make the world go from centralized systems to decentralized systems. All the businesses are going to be impacted one way or the other. The nature of jobs is going to change. The way of doing audits will change.
Companies like IBM use blockchain for their day-to-day transactions. Coca-Cola is building an NFT use case and so on.
So if you are a finance professional or an auditor you'll need to understand how blockchain works and what a smart contract is, before you can get a job in this industry. There is undoubtedly a lot of scope in the market.
Automation in the finance function
Finance functions are the backbone of a business. But looks like being occupied with certain manual processes are inefficient and are going to be outdated soon.
It can easily be passed onto the intelligence of automation, saving the finance team’s effort and valuable time.
In the McKinsey Global Institute’s automation research, it was stated that 42 percent of finance activities can be fully automated by currently demonstrated technologies.
Giving his thoughts on the same, is Gaurav Agarwal, a Chartered Accountant, and Partner for Finance Transformation at PwC India.
“More and more finance functions will become virtual.
Previously, we had 60 percent of the people in finance doing transaction processing, 15-25 percent doing compliance, and 10-15 percent doing reporting and analytical work.
Now 50-60 percent of people in finance will handle analytics, and business partnering, 20 percent of people will handle compliance, and 15 percent will do the transactional work.”
And we at The Finance Story couldn’t agree more.
Sharing the same judgment as Gaurav is CA Kartik Radia,
“Right now, most Indian companies are at a nascent stage of implementing AI, but it is just a matter of 3-4 years before we automate most of the routine, mundane, and repetitive business process activities.
In fact, over 60% of our practice deals with technology like AI, Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementations.
Because of this, I am able to take a view that around 75% to 80% of business processes in any given business function are repetitive, routine, and mundane in nature.”
Machine learning, and artificial intelligence, both of these concepts are valid and looked upon by a variety of sectors.
But despite its advantages, not everyone in the finance industry has taken the leap yet. Many also think that automation will take away their jobs, whereas the reality is that ‘It is just an enabler that will make their tasks easier.'
To free the CFOs and finance teams from doing tedious tasks so that they can focus on strategic work, Mohammed Ridwan and his friends built Pluto - a Fintech product created to help businesses improve their spending, streamline their expense management, and save time & money.
"Finance Professionals need to keep an open mind when it comes to automation and they need to have a clear understanding of it.
Some people may think that automation means losing jobs. No, that is not true. Automation redirects you to the job that you were meant to do and not all the rotework that you know you don't want to do. That’s what the purpose of automation is."
When former CFO and finance leader Christina Ross noticed that she had to spend too many late nights trying to consolidate data and update models, leaving little to no time for strategic work. She founded Cube Software, a flexible but powerful next-gen financial planning and analysis (FP&A) platform.
Platforms such as Sovos Taxify help businesses quickly and accurately understand their tax obligations, for transactions occurring across international jurisdictions. It frees up their time to focus on business-critical responsibilities.
Spendesk's platform allows finance teams to automate expenses and removes the painful aspects of filing and processing expense reports.
Automation is already reshaping the future of work in the finance function. Manage the disruption.
Banking frauds, business deceit, and Ponzi Schemes have been around for quite some time, and now cybercrime is the latest one to join the business crime scenario. Cybercrime is malicious activity, conducted through a computer and a network, to put it simply.
It’s not a completely new term, but with the arrival of Covid, and Covid induced pandemic it has gotten out of hand it seems.
In one of his latest best-selling books Corporate Frauds: Business Crimes now Bigger, Broader, Bolder author Robin Banerjee mentioned, “Every year we lose about $450 billion to cybercrime, which needs to be dealt with immediately by the finance team.”
Yes, you heard that right, it’s not just the responsibility of the Information Security Team anymore. CFOs and the finance team as a whole have to play a key role as well.
“Please do not be surprised if you find things are getting out of hand in 2022 and beyond. Every system or device in the world is hackable. I know it sounds alarming, but that is the truth.
Now, as far as CFOs and finance communities are concerned, it is important to address the cybercrime issue. There are two aspects that CFOs need to look into; internal controls and external controls.
Often, the finance team only looks after internal controls. But trust me, it is very important to take care of the customers through external controls as well. Protect the customers’ data and financial information when they interact with your company’s website.”
Harshavardhan Godugula, Forensic & Integrity Services Partner at Ernst & Young India says,
"It is worth mentioning that almost every country is enacting Data Privacy Laws. This will be complex to navigate and every cybersecurity professional needs to be aware of it all the time.
Hence, they should also be proficient in cybersecurity, private data, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data, protected information as well as confidential information to name but a few. These are interesting emerging areas where finance professionals can play a key role.”
CFOs and finance professionals who can effectively manage IT issues will have an edge over their peers and be in high demand. The opportunities could be for the roles of Ethical Hackers, Cybersecurity Consultants, and a lot more.
New roles because of Big Data
Data is the new oil, they say. But if it sits idle in the storage, then it's not of much use, is it? Upon interacting with a number of finance leaders we found out that they are also reading up on big data, and figuring out a way to leverage it.
Harshavardhan Godugula, Forensic & Integrity Services Partner at Ernst & Young India gives us valuable insight on the same,
“In the last four years, things have changed dramatically because of the amount of Data we are generating and the number of processes we are conducting.
They cannot just take this data and handle it inadequately because that will lead to trust issues with all relevant stakeholders - customers, vendors, etc. Hence finance professionals should embrace new technologies that will help them better analyze the storage and handling of data."
Meenakshi Dagar, CFO of Lenovo India says,
"As a CFO, I cannot sit back and relax that my P&L will work.
I challenge myself & my team constantly to look ahead at what is happening in the industry and the big data world.
If all three forces (CIO, CFO & CMO), come together and every decision is made in a collaborative way, it will yield the best results for the organisation to enable leaders to use real-time data for decision-making."
Pratikk Dalal, Chartered Accountant and Chief Financial Officer Al Maryah Community Bank, UAE's 1st Digital Bank encourages CAs on the same,
"You might say, ‘I’m a chartered accountant and this degree will get me everywhere.’ That is no longer a reality today.
But if you mention in your resume that ‘I am a Chartered Accountant, and I also have obtained certifications in AI, data analytics, and data mining.' only then will the recruiter choose you over the other candidate with just a CA degree."
Equipped with data analytics expertise, CA Sachin Chitlange is currently driving Finance Transformation at Capgemini. He was fascinated by the power of data analytics and its ability to help clients.
"Today technology is driving business so, you need to keep up with the changes. Understand how the finance industry is evolving. As the finance industry goes through digitization, chartered accountants would have to learn how to leverage data. It’s imperative to reap benefits for their organisation.
It’s all about understanding the flow of data, and how each piece of data connects with the others."
The increased emphasis on data provides an opportunity for finance and accounting professionals.
As Digital transformation is reinventing the corporate world, the report from EY ‘Reshaping the future of compliance with emerging technologies’ explains how the emergence of new forms of cyberattacks, would result in huge demand for forensic technology.
Harshavardhan Godugula, helps us understand this subject better,
“The usage of 5G, IoT, blockchain, AI-related applications, and automation, will increase data consumption, creating a huge requirement to audit these data sets. With all these coming up, there is a huge requirement for forensic auditors and people with an investigative mindset. And at EY, I have seen many teams containing CAs or finance professionals performing tremendously well with the help of technology.”
Adapting to new ways of work and new trends could be challenging. But we cannot look away from the fact that the trends that they talked about have already started reshaping the world of finance. The world is not the same anymore as it was 2 years ago, and it will never stand still. If you want to survive and thrive in the competitive industry and accelerate your career, you know what to do.
Cryptos are digital assets built on the foundation of blockchain technology. While many finance professionals are fairly confident about how blockchain could transform the finance industry, crypto is still somewhat of a controversial topic given it is highly volatile.
Then again if we look at its global market cap, crypto sits at approx. $630 trillion as of 2022.
Sathya Pramod, Former CFO of Tally shares his views,
“I think Crypto is here to stay. Maybe, I am ruffling a few feathers here but, it's here to stay. It will never become a Fiat currency though, but that's ok.
Large corporates like PwC or Ernst &Young are accepting payments in crypto and I think that says something about the current scenario.”
We cannot entirely predict what the future of crypto in the finance industry might look like. But looking at the point of view of these seasoned professionals and the current ecosystem, it is wiser to get a hang of it.
Avinash Shekhar, a CFO turned CEO of Zebpay - one of the leading bitcoin and crypto exchanges was surprisingly sceptical of crypto. But as he started studying bitcoin and crypto, it became very clear to him that decentralization was the future.
He shares, "There is a huge shortage of people in the finance industry, who understand blockchain and crypto. CAs and accountants should look into crypto accounting. They must learn the valuation of crypto, and how the accountant can make reconciliations because there are literally hundreds of thousands of transactions happening on a daily basis in this area."
Neeraj Khandelwal, co-founder of CoinDCX shares the same views as Avinash regarding crypto disrupting the finance industry,
"Crypto is already disrupting a lot of aspects of the finance industry. It is going mainstream in terms of investment, trading, remittances, transfers, transactions, and settlements. Finance professionals should get a little deeper into crypto, understand the emerging trends of DeFi, and NFT markets, and how the regulations are evolving not just in India but across the globe. It's a global market after all."
Merging two of his interests; B2B software and emerging technology that is crypto, Antoine Scalia founded Cryptio.com - an institutional-grade crypto accounting platform says,
"We see CPAs and Chartered Accountants as incredible partners. Since day one all the products that we have been building are in partnership and in collaboration with accounting firms. We are here to build tools to make their life easier, and to make the crypto side of their client’s activity accountable."
There is a popular notion that chartered accountants are a bit too sceptical about crypto. Varun Jajoo, a CA of India was no different. However, when he joined a tax accounting firm in Australia and spoke to clients that were well-versed in crypto, his views changed.
"The more I looked into crypto, the more I understood how DeFi or Decentralised Finance can be a game changer. When I started crypto trading, I had more than a thousand transactions in the first year only.
Then I wondered - Reconciling all of this for the year-end would be an absolute disaster. That’s when it occurred to me - What if there was software that could make crypto compliance easier?
I decided to build DeFi Tax Calc, a platform to make crypto compliance easier."
There are big opportunities for CAs in the Crypto space. Even though it is still at a nascent stage, a number of finance professionals believe that it has the potential to be more efficient than the current financial ecosystem.
Therefore, it is imperative for finance professionals, whether CAs or otherwise, to understand Blockchain technology.
Rostow Ravanan is the Co-founder and former CFO and CEO of Mindtree, a US$1.4 billion IT company.
As a technology enthusiast, he shares,
“I think Cloud, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence would be three of the game-changing technologies that Finance Professionals should be cognizant of.
A lesson that I passed on to my kids is that ‘The definition of literacy in the future will be the ability to read and write software codes'."
It may sound radical, but whatever Rostow said, is not too far-fetched, given how fast the world is evolving. The roles and responsibilities of finance professionals have evolved. It's moved beyond finance.
These skills cannot be ignored
Having communication, presentation, and team collaboration skills in place is a must. This at times, is missing from a lot of chartered accountants and finance guys.
All you need is a little bit of change in mindset…and you’ve got the upper hand.