As companies become more cost-efficient, they're counting on their
financial managers to keep them afloat. To succeed, financial managers are
going to need specific skills in everything from accounting to information
Maureen Neglia is a senior manager at a financial services company. She
says financial institutions are the most stable in North America. And this,
she says, is creating a lot of jobs at the top.
Neglia helps financial executives get to the top of their career. She says
this is an exciting field -- especially because there are ample opportunities
There also are opportunities to move ahead, she says. "A young person can
come in and start in a teller role and can move up into a supervisor of human
resources," she says.
"The great thing about this field is that when you come into an organization,
you don't have to know exactly what you want to do when you grow up."
There's a reason why there is a demand for talented accountants and financial
executives, says Wayne Mello. Mello is the executive director of a placement
service for accounting and finance professionals.
It's because companies are paying more attention to cost-saving and strategic
initiatives to keep their companies strong, he says.
"[C]ompanies are demanding that financial executives have all the requirements
needed to be an effective financial accountant," he says. "They are closely
assessing one's skills and requirements."
Financial executives must have specific skills, he says. They need to be
fiscally conservative. And most importantly, they need to have integrity.
He points to the Enron scandal as an example. Enron was a leading energy
broker. The company's financial misdealings led to an investigation over questionable
business deals and faulty financial statements. This caused Enron's stock
price to plummet.
"The alleged activities of their chief financial officer is exactly the
kind of thing companies don't want to see or hear about," he says.
Mike Zelen is a company president and CFO (chief financial officer). "The
Enron situation has put accounting and financial practices in the spotlight,"
"Companies with even a hint of weak disclosure or questionable financial
practices are being penalized...heavily," he says. "Reputable financial executives
with a track record of investor confidence are needed to comfort market scepticism."
Other skills needed to be an effective financial executive include data
processing, information technology and Internet skills. That's according to
In the past, chief financial officers depended on information technology
(IT) managers, he says. Now, they are required to know these skills themselves.
"You just cannot be in the dark and depend on an IT person," he says. "Now
you have to be computer-literate."
Often, financial executives will have a minor in IT, he says. And they
are continually upgrading their skills.
Being an effective advisor is also important, he says. "You need to be
a strategic business advisor to managers, instead of just slashing numbers,"
he says. "They have gone from having a record-keeping type of mentality to
being a cost-saving financial right hand to top management."
Basically, the more versatile the individual, the better, he says. Technology
is constantly changing and evolving. And the market is always reinventing
"It's a very challenging market," says John Broderick. He is president
of a company that helps financial employees find employment.
Julie Wise McClure is a spokesperson for the Association for Financial
Professionals. She says the market for top financial executives is tough.
"There have been a significant number of layoffs across all areas of business
in the past few years, as companies continue to tighten their budget belts
and unlock new ways to increase earnings," she says. "And we don't expect
this situation to change in the near term, as the economy continues its slow
But there will be a renewed need for top financial managers, she adds.
"Working smarter and working leaner will be the mantra for this profession
as we forge ahead," she says.
How can you get into the field? Financial managers usually have a university
degree, an accounting designation or a college diploma in business administration,
economics, commerce or a related field. Most recent entrants have an undergraduate
university degree or a community college diploma.
They also need several years of experience in accounting, auditing, budgeting,
financial planning and analysis. With experience, they may advance to senior
management positions in financial management.
"Companies are always going to be cost-conscious," Mello says. It's not
a recession-proof market. But he says finance will always be one of the most
Financial Executives International
A professional association for senior financial executives, representing
Financial Managers Society
Serves the technical and professional needs of today's financial
institutions and affiliated organizations
Provides resources and articles on financial topics