What the 21st Century Demands of a Financial Director

What the 21st Century Demands of a Financial Director


In the last years of high school, your parents or guidance counselors might have encouraged you to choose a career. You may have had a love for numbers, you may have liked the doors it opened in terms of job opportunities, or you may have been attracted to rumours about the salary – but one way or the other you decided on accounting.

It seems like light years ago that you slogged your way through university tests and wrote your board exams. Since then your career has enjoyed an upward trajectory, and now you’re a financial director.

Related: What Makes a Good Financial Management System?

But the world in which you function as a financial director is indeed light years away from the world in which you chose your career as a dreamy high-schooler. Decades ago, the pressures and expectations were different from those faced by your role today.

1. The ability to manage ever-accelerating change

Time in the 21st century is fundamentally different from what is was in the past. Think about the impact of this for a moment. In past decades, your company may have wanted to conduct market research. So you would haul out books on your subject.

You would conduct interviews telephonically and face-to-face. You might even visit the library to glean further insights. This process would take weeks, if not months, to complete. The only knowledge you gleaned would be either be what you found out directly or historical information you found in books and journals.

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The introduction of the internet has changed all that. Nowadays, if you’re wanting to conduct market research, the first thing you’ll do is hop online and pull up a search engine. In response to a few key words, a plethora of information will come up within milliseconds.

You’ll likely be able to read online books, research reports and academic findings. Then, you’ll be able to conduct online interviews and polls, accessing thousands of audience members instantly at the click of a button.

You will likely be able to conduct some high-level market research within days, literally cutting the time it took to learn new information into a fraction of what it was before. This phenomenon means we have more access to new information at a faster pace than ever. By virtue of the fact that our world changes when we learn new things, it also means that our world is changing faster than it ever did before.

As a financial director, you’re expected to know what’s changing and when. You’re expected to understand the implications of change, and most importantly, you’re expected to make decisions that react to change as soon as it comes.

2. The breaking down of silos

In previous eras, departments existed and functioned in relative autonomy. There was a finance department, a marketing department, a technical department, a Human Resources department and an R&D department. The heads of these departments would meet from time to time, but they generally viewed themselves in isolation, pursuing their own goals often in spite of – or even at the expense of –another. Those days have changed.

Today, your mandate as a financial director is to help the company to view itself as a single collective. Departments need to view themselves as interdependent, and work together to achieve goals.

If you are able to help break down the silos between departments, your reward as a financial director will be a more seamless operation with more sharing of resources and more operational efficiency

3. An ability to predict the future from past experience

The 21st century financial director needs to learn from the past. Despite their ever-changing world, they are required to use experiences from what has already taken place to predict the future. Today’s financial director needs to plan in a way that is more insightful and reflexive than ever before.

Their plans need to say: “this is how the past changed me, and this is how I will change the future.”

Related: The Science of Pricing

If your company is looking for the insight of a financial director who is fully equipped with the skills demanded of them by the 21st century, The Finance Team has the answer. We draw on a network of highly skilled, qualified professionals who can assist your company for the period of time that your company requires.

See more at: http://www.thefinanceteam.co.za

Grant Robson
Grant Robson is the executive chairman of The Finance Team a financial executive outsourcing company. He holds a BCom, BCompt (Hons) and is a CA(SA). Grant’s commercial experience includes roles in financial services (African Bank) and the medical industry (Medco), along with international mining experience (Petra Diamonds Plc). He has also served as the CFO of MvelaMasefield (Pty) Ltd, the energy trading subsidiary of the Mvelaphanda Group, with both local and international operations. During his tenure, Grant was responsible for the company’s operations in East Africa, specifically Tanzania and Zanzibar. Following his role at Mvela Masefield, he was appointed financial director of Whiz Property Group (Pty) Ltd, a Johannesburg based, multi-million rand, commercial property development business. Grant’s strengths are client acquisition, service delivery and client retention. For more Information go to www.thefinanceteam.co.za.

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