The key skills finance needs to thrive

Critical thinking and problem-solving are among the skills sought by finance leader Sandi Briggs, CPA, CGMA, the CFO of the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Editor’s note: Sandi Briggs, CPA, CGMA, the CFO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, spoke with
FM magazine at the American Institute of CPAs’ CFO Conference. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Video transcript:

For our organisation, when we’re identifying those next financial leaders and staff members, traditional financial policies and procedure knowledge is really important. What’s even more important is having that business acumen, having the understanding of business knowledge, how businesses operate. Once we get those team members on board, it’s fostering and identifying opportunities for them to get connected with our operational teams, really understand who are our key customers, what our key business process is, and then how did those link back to our key financial drivers. The other piece that’s important for our new talent is to identify individuals that have a strong technical knowledge, because a lot of times organisations have business data and business-specific systems. How do you then integrate that with financial data, which [is] mostly sitting in a completely separate system from an accounting standpoint? So getting those two pieces integrated really helps leverage an organisation’s ability to make decisions.

For our organisation, two key skill gaps that we’ve been seeing in candidates is critical thinking and problem-solving. We focus a lot of our efforts during our recruiting process on identifying candidates that either possess those skills or possess the opportunity to be able to further develop those skills. Once we get them on board and into our organisation, we can further develop and enhance their background in those areas so that they can really become drivers in the organisation and in the decision-making roles.

Our staff development looks and feels different for each individual, and we really tailor it to their specific needs from a development perspective. And then how can you get them that development through several different channels. Sending someone to a class or a conference might give them an introduction into a particular knowledge area, but you need to support that with a mentor, [inside or outside] the organisation. At the same time, what’s really important for us is that hands-on application. That’s where someone really can take new knowledge and start to apply it and identify how [they can] apply that to a particular problem, how [they can] make a process improvement. And that’s where we see our greatest results is really connecting them with someone within the organisation that deals with particular challenges, and they can then dig in and do some problem-solving and some critical thinking.