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The skills finance professionals need now with Ankur Agrawal

The McKinsey partner speaks with us about upskilling ahead of his session at Next-Gen Finance: Future-Proofing Your Business Operations.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Ankur Agrawal is a partner at McKinsey. He’ll be part of a panel on upskilling and reskilling at our upcoming CFO Brew live event, “Next-Gen Finance: Future-Proofing Your Business Operations.” He spoke with us about how the finance department’s role has grown over the past several years, and about what skills finance professionals need to keep up.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How have you seen the role of the finance department expand in recent years?

These rising expectations of the finance role, and the way it interacts with the business, have been in play for the last decade or even more. What has accelerated the trajectory has been the radical changes driven by Covid-19, macroeconomic uncertainty, and the disruption caused by technology. Finance is at the center of it. That has opened possibilities for finance functions to play a more strategic role, to help businesses think hard about economic decisions and choices and tradeoffs.

What skills will finance professionals need to cope with this shift?

One I would call the softer skills of influencing and helping business leaders make decisions.

On the harder skills, I would say using data and being more facile with connecting the dots across different data sets to make their insights richer…I expect finance to get one step beyond [being] aware about technology—not doing actual coding, but being the “analytic glue.” This translation role between hardcore technology and traditional insight will become even more important. Some finance functions will need a lot more hands-on knowledge of analytic tools.

The last one is storytelling or visualization…As you get more information at your disposal, the ability to synthesize it will become important as well.

How can CFOs determine where the skills gaps are in their departments?

People need to develop a five- to 10-year, longer-term view on their talent strategies, have a discussion and dialogue on what they want the shape of the finance function to be, and then thoughtfully do a combination of a formal talent assessment and an assessment of what may be needed.

How can CFOs help build the skills of their current workforce?

Formal capability-building programs is one way, where you can expose the finance teams to a learning curriculum adding new skills like technology and data sciences and statistics. But the most effective technique I have found is rotations: rotating people in and out of roles, putting people in stretch roles, moving people outside of finance, even expecting them to go work in other areas of the business.

The third is the “train the trainer” approach, which is expecting leaders in finance functions to lead by example, and reward capability building as part of the mission of the finance leaders. It’s kind of the apprenticeship model.

Interested in connecting with the industry's leading CFOs about how to future proof for tomorrow? Come to our May 2 IRL event in NYC. Click here for tickets.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.