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This is the second half of the article: What 21st Century Employers want? A Comprehensive guide Begins.

Click here to read the first part of the article

What exactly does soft skills mean?

The answer varies slightly, depending on whom you ask, but there are some common themes.

'How you present yourself each day, how you interact with colleagues, handle a discussion, deal with problems and manage your time, all contribute to your success as an accountant.

Soft skills are an essential part of your armory. So you need to balance your hard technical skills with communication, interpersonal and organizational skills.

And you should be able to work as part of a team, reason and negotiate and explain your decisions and reasoning using non-technical language.

Demand for the full range of soft skills knows no borders:

1) People Management/People leadership/People skills: Good listening skills, negotiation and Influencing skills, Conflict-Resolution skills (Consensus building)

2) Keen Commercial awareness: Commercial awareness is knowledge of-

a) the business you want to work in
b) the sectors you would be working with
c) your employer
d) your employer's competitors ;and
e) key business issues

Google this term for further info. Do Google it. It's exhaustive. What I've written is just intro. I'd like to brief a story how I got to know it's importance. Although, I had read umpteen times that Commercial awareness is top most requirement in any role.

In the course of site hopping, I read somewhere that an interviewee gets following questions frequently:

i) What is currently affecting the business services sector?
ii) What is currently affecting BIG 4 firms?

I didn't know the answer then. Then I stumbled upon the commercial awareness short definition which is written above. That moment, I saw the light. So to speak.

In reality, above mentioned interview questions are kind of 'depending upon the situation' type. If you want to foray into business services industry Q.1 will be thrown at you and if it's BIG 4 then Q.2.

3) Personality traits: Such as like ability, proactive ability, diplomacy, tact, creativeness, good character, have courage, integrity and emotional intelligence* to engage with clients)
*Emotional Intelligence(EQ  or EI)-VVI

It is concerned with understanding oneself and others, relating to people AND adapting to and coping with your immediate surroundings. It's about being able to read other people's signals and react appropriately to them.

Note: Emotional Intelligence is more valued than IQ.

 Emotional Intelligence is all about being resilient and trusted. If accountants are to work alongside the CEO, they(accountants) need that level of integrity.And identifying emotions in other people and dealing with them effectively, all helps them to manage teams.

4) Attitude towards their work should be positive and proactive
5) Personal habits(such as lack of politeness, slovenly, gossipy etc.)
6) Cross: Cultural communications and adapting to foreign working cultures.

7) Collaboration: Ability to break out of traditional silos and cross organizational boundaries to collaborate on complex business issues. (It means working in cross-functional teams. Say are in finance division but you are working along side production or marketing operations etc  to solve a complex problem.)

8) Persistence
9) Sociability: Talent for Relationship-building
10) Conscientiousness: Good with work ethics and Professionalism
11) Commitment to continuous learning i.e. Lifelong learning
12) Openness to diverse(varied)perspectives
13) Teamwork: Ability to partner and lead a team.(VVI)
14) Executive Presence
15) Customer Service: Ability to empathize with the customers and genuinely want to help resolve their concerns.
16) Business Partnering skills & Commercial Acumen: An ability to understand and influence business growth, to find trends and opportunities in the numbers and communicate them to all levels of a business - from trainees to CEOs.

(Work experience is probably the most practical way to gain commercial acumen)

Key technical skills:-

I've categorized the key technical competencies subject-wise to make it lucid:

FOUNDATION LEVEL

Mathematics
- Quantitative methods(Kind of Advanced Statistics)

In this subject, concepts should be more practical than abstract and include interest rates and monthly budgeting problems. And of course numeracy skills.

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

1) Financial Accounting 
- Complete grasp of Accounting standards and their implementation

2) Law, Ethics and Governance
- Corporate Governance Practices and Business ethics

3) Cost Accounting
- Costing and Cost Leadership

4) Financial Management
- Investment Appraisals and Valuations
- A separate chapter namely 'Personal finance and Money management Practices' for financial awareness.

This chapter will cater to Financial literacy skills/Financial education
Purpose: For aiding in taking informed financial decisions like home purchase, insurance, Retirement planning etc.

5) Auditing:
Accounts Reconciliations process of Accounting including :

a) Bank Reconciliations
b) General ledger Scrutiny and Reconciliation

6) Information Systems
-Business Process management(BPM)
-Transaction Processing and management

7) Strategic Management
- Strategic Planning skills
- Strategic decision making
- Profound(deep) understanding of  the intricacies of business models

FINAL LEVEL

1) Corporate Reporting(Includes both financial and non-financial reporting)
- External Reporting and Analysis
- Sustainability and Integrated Reporting

2) Strategic Financial Management
- Managerial Finance and Managerial skills
- Finance Function transformation
- Shared Services(on-shore, near-shore,off-shore)

3) Advanced Auditing and Professional Ethics
- Regulatory Concerns(Governance, Risk and Compliance)

4) Advanced Co. Laws
-Regulatory Knowledge for Regulatory Compliance
It's in legal perspective (GAAP, Tax & Compliance)

5) Strategic Cost Management
-Advanced Managerial Accounting
-Mathematics for business (I reckon it's Operations Research)

6) Financial Services and markets
- Private Equity

7) ISCA

- Data Analytics tools
- Business Analytics
- Big data and Predictive Analytics

Analytics are of four types: (Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive and Prescriptive among which the latter two are more important)

Following  are such competencies which I couldn't categorize. If you folks can, help yourself.

i) General Accounting
ii) General Management
iii) Product control and Financial control knowledge(VVI all over the world)
iv) Strong Project Management skills
v) Above all, Industry specific(domain)knowledge and regulations

NOTE:

For those who have just passed into CA Final(new) course, I'd recommend in optional papers, Paper 6: Financial services and Markets. I've read many a times that employers demand Financial services industry knowledge. Other Papers are prone to amendments and you may study them after qualifying CA. However, I don't promise that you'll become a Stock guru or venture into investment banking jobs after studying this subject. But having  domain knowledge and regulations of this industry will hold you in good stead down the road. Just my two cents.

There are two basic career paths in Finance:

1) Managerial Finance/Corporate Finance: It involves managing the finance function for business in manufacturing or trade industry

2) Financial Services (heavily regulated industry): Creates and sells financial products or services. E.g. Securities, Real Estate

Top 5 Non-Technical Competency Gaps:

1) Leadership ability

(Leadership is the only skill that is both most needed by employers and least possessed by entry-level accountants*)

Top 4 skills that leaders must possess to succeed in a world defined by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and ambiguity) are:-

i) Managing and introducing change
ii) Building consensus and commitment
iii) Inspiring others toward a challenging future vision
iv) Leading across generations

*Entry-level accountants are those who hold a bachelor's degree and have at least 3 yrs' experience.

2) Strategic Thinking and Execution
3) Change Management
4) Technology-enabled Process Improvement
5) Business Acumen or context

(rated as the most business critical skill for an organization's future success)

Top 5 Technical Competency Gaps:

1) Planning, Budgeting  and Forecasting*
2) Cost Management(or Managing costs)
3) Internal Financial Reporting/Performance Management
4) Enterprise Risk Management
5) Corporate Finance

(including Investment decision-making)

*The most sought-after skill set is Operational Finance, including FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis), budgeting and forecasting.

The ability to see the business through the numbers and partner with a general manager to drive a P&L (Statement of Profit and loss) is crucial. 

Lastly, I'd like to quote a thought provoking quote:
Talent will get you in the door, but Character will keep you in the room.


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Category Students, Other Articles by - Prashant Rajput 



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