Top 5 essential skills for a successful finance career

As a child, did you play with your abacus more than your toy cars? Did you learn your numbers before your alphabets? Did you role play bank teller instead of the vegetable seller? 

Well, that proves nothing.

It definitely doesn’t imply you were destined for a career in the financial industry. 

However, as an adult, you may have exhibited expertise, talent and instincts that showcase your affinity to finance. Now that is a whole different story. It is proof that you are well equipped to deal with a career in this intense, competitive industry. So what are we talking about here?

Companies, banks, investment services and accountancy firms need the right people to take their business forward. They are always looking for driven, savvy employees armed with a specific set of skills. It’s not enough to boast of a degree or qualification, although that does matter a lot. You need to show you have a passion for finance, a thirst for knowledge and a head for numbers. In this day and age, the competition is stiff. There are multiple applicants gunning for the same job. And even after you are hired, you’ve got to prove you are worthy of the next big promotion over other qualified candidates. 

So to get your shot, you need to prove your star quality. Whether you’ve completed your ACCA course or are a Certified Financial Planner, here are the five skills you need for any finance career.

#1 You should have enough business savvy to match your financial prowess 

You know your numbers. You are proficient in computer skills and research systems. You even have a few investment banker jokes locked and loaded for the next company picnic. These are all great skills to prove your mettle. But you are going to need one more. You need to know what is happening in the corporate world. It is intrinsically connected to your finance career. Big business and multi-national companies make decisions that can affect your livelihood. You must understand how these companies function. After all, they can affect the economy and the stock markets. 

Let’s say you are a financial professional with a CPA certification. Your keen understanding of business is considered a valuable ability in any investment advisory company. 

To stay updated, follow the financial papers, websites and apps. Attend the seminars, webinars and other corporate events. Broaden your network to include key corporate professionals. If you know what is happening around you, you are in a better position to make smart decisions and predict outcomes. Not too shabby a skill, right?

#2 You need technological proficiency in this day and age

We left the pen-and-paper age a while back and now are firmly entrenched in the digital era. So it’s not enough to understand the economy, the stock markets or the finance industry. You have to be well versed in implementing software, analysis methods and other communication tools. A successful, trained finance executive will have the academic and technical background to support his work. Here are some skills you need:

  • SQL — This programming language helps you store and analyze data so you can make suggestions, predictions and decisions. 
  • Financial modeling — this strategic planning software will help you create estimates, valuations and calculations. It is a valuable skill for any CFA professional 
  • Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint — you need to know these two office tools like the back of your hand. Both are vital platforms on which you can present your work.
  • Tableau — is a data visualization software that helps you use charts, graphics and other visual tools to make dynamic and effective presentations 
  • Python — It is a coding programming language used by accountants with an ACCA certification
  • Machine learning — this is a beneficial program for those finance professionals who are also data scientists and artificial intelligence specialists

#3 How good are your maths and accounting skills?

When dealing with money, especially large sums, you have to be quick in maths. No one expects you to count like Shakuntala Devi (although it wouldn’t hurt). But you need a certain level of competence when dealing with huge numbers. Not all finance-oriented professionals will have the same level of expertise. The maths isn’t very complex, to be honest. If you’ve done well in school and college, it shouldn’t be more taxing than that. Also, since everything is digitized and databases do most of the calculations, it takes some of the stress off you.

However, you do need a certain degree of mathematical knowledge. Here below is what some prominent finance fields require from you:

ACCA — you don’t need to worry too much about mathematics, as long as you can handle general algebra when needed. You must be strong in statistics and accounting principles

CFA — you should know your basic maths, statistics, a fair bit of calculus, quantitive methods and linear programming 

Investment banking — proficiency in arithmetic, basic formulas and working with calculations on a spreadsheet

CPA — you must be comfortable working with fractions, decimals, percentages, multiplication and division

#4 Do you have a strong analytical mind?

This is a biggie. One of the most important skills you’ll need to make a mark in this industry. Good analytical skills will give you an edge over your peers, and perhaps, one day get you the corner office. How sharp are you? Can you spot patterns, trends and insights within a sea of financial data? Are you able to look at information with a critical eye? When you see numbers, do you also see solutions? Answer yes to the above questions, and you’ve got yourself a roaring career in this field. 

Many finance professionals have done the data science course, interweaving the two disciplines harmoniously to make informed decisions. Most analytical minds are also adept at research. They can collect, examine and investigate through large piles of information to arrive at an efficient solution. Equity research analysts who have done their CFA certification will be required to possess this particular skill set. 

#5 Sharpen your interpersonal skills 

When you work in a team, report to a supervisor or handle a department, you need good people skills. How well you communicate and interact with others is a part of any finance-related job. Your listening skills are also critical. Do you pay attention when others speak? Or do you rudely interrupt? If you are a certified financial planner, you need good life skills when building relationships with your clients.

Emotional intelligence is also essential when working with people. It will help you deal with conflicts, challenges and any setback that comes your way. It also enables you to be better at negotiation, persuasion and decision making. Safe to say, excellent people skills can enhance your finance career. 

In conclusion 

The finance industry is brimming with limitless opportunities. To be a part of this illustrious profession can be quite a challenge. The right combination of skills gives you the leg up you need to succeed. Most people who have done the ACCA course or hold a CFA qualification can attest to this fact. So hone your skills, perfect your abilities and showcase your competencies to your employer and clients.