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Page Personnel Research: “Financial staff must adapt to survive”

  • A third of financial staff think that 20% of their department’s work will have disappeared through automation in five years’ time
  • Automation of processes in the finance department will lead to a changing demand for staff competencies, which 88% of financial staff view as a negative thing
  • Two thirds of respondents think that automation will not result in fewer employees
  • Automation requires new roles and training of current personnel
  • 69% of finance and accounting professionals cannot afford to pick and choose  their job

Amsterdam, 10 September 2015 - To ensure they remain in the game, financial staff will have to develop themselves and acquire new skills, says Joost Fortuin, Managing Director of Page Personnel, in response to recent research findings. Page Personnel research shows that, despite automation, financial staff are not concerned about their jobs. “And they needn’t be,” says Fortuin. “There will still be a demand for financial staff. Due to automation, the content of the role may change, but professionals are still required to control, check and analyse computerised output and output. However, financial professionals should take action now to maintain their appeal on the job market.”

Less work, fewer jobs?

Fortuin: “Bookkeeping used to be a trick. Whoever could do the trick, could count on a great career as a bookkeeper.” Because financial departments are being further automated, invoices are now read ‘automatically’, and most manual tasks have been taken over by software. Hence, most respondents (31%) think that 20 percent of the workload in their department will have been automated within five years. However, a large majority of respondents do not view this as a positive development. “This is a subjective view. People are naturally afraid that automation will make them redundant. They don’t like that.”

However, over two thirds of respondents don’t expect there to be fewer employees in finance departments in the future. “This is probably because automation also creates new roles,” says Fortuin. “Computers must be maintained and monitored.”

Four percent of respondents think that in five years, the department will have grown as a result of these newly created roles. So job security depends on employee and employer attitudes. “Departments will not necessarily get smaller because of automation. But current financial staff will have to keep adapting and developing to safeguard their role in the department.

Keep up or get fired

Will companies invest in new, automated work environments? Fortuin thinks so: “Although it’s been on the back-burner due to the economic crisis, companies are now beginning to invest in innovation again. As a result, businesses and their financial departments will be organised differently. Where automation used to conjure up images of high startup cost and difficult-to-implement systems, employers now recognise that it can lead to better performance, fewer mistakes and a reduction in billing costs. It also limits the opportunities for fraud. The added value of automation has become more tangible.”

Finance & Accounting 2.0

“The market shows less demand for headcount in the finance department. Employees can combine multiple processes, because many processes have been taken over by computers. This changes the role of financial staff.”

Most of the survey respondents attended higher professional education (44%). In the future, a need will arise for analytical skills, and with it an academic level of thought. “The bookkeeper in the back room at the end of the hall has ceased to exist. New roles and job titles are emerging, with different job requirements. The bookkeeper of the future is a good communicator who can get things done. Modern financial staff no longer just crunch numbers, but have to be able to interpret these numbers and find information. As such, an analyst can certainly add value to the department.”

Job hunting

Fortuin advises back-office staff to reflect on their future and ambitions, and to invest in their own development. “A lot of people are still very much in their comfort zone, and don’t want to adapt to the changing world around them. But if you’re standing still, reality will overtake you. Companies used to take care of their employees, but now the employee will have to be proactive and ask their employer for training. Employees are still very much focused on the numbers, and are not likely to invest in further education. However, smart employers would proactively invest in retraining their staff.”

About the research

A total of 190 finance and accounting professionals from industry, business services, and transport and logistics contributed their opinions in May/June 2015.