The finance career track is rapidly changing

For graduates embarking on the start of their finance careers – or for unemployed workers on the hunt for their first finance job – the competition is incredibly fierce. Further, it seems the track toward the corporate boardroom is constantly shifting, as many chief financial officers have reported that their careers in finance have followed paths they didn't expect. By studying the career tracks of current executives, would-be finance workers can plan their way to the top. 

The "classic," narrow finance career track is coming to an end, according to the "Future pathways to finance leadership" report, recently issued by the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. In a survey of more than 700 CFOs around the country, who were asked to comment on their paths to their current employment. The results suggest that the financial leaders of the future will need a deeper understanding of the general business world and a broader understanding of a number of different finance jobs. 

The findings of the survey display a wide range of different methods taken to reach executive employment: While the traditional career path of current CFOs was "largely domestic in nature," according to the report, distinct changes in the "classic" career track are currently taking shape. For example, 27 percent of CFOs have spent some time in an international role, and 25 percent have worked in an emerging world market.

Individuals currently employed in CFO positions worked a wide variety of jobs before they achieved their current employment status, according to the report. While the most popular stepping stone to a CFO job was financial controller, almost half of the respondents had held six or more finance jobs over the course of their careers. In addition, approximately 40 percent of respondents had taken a non-finance job at some point in their employment histories – and most individuals surveyed suggested that future CFOs would be forced to do the same. 

"We can expect a different premium to be placed on the capabilities that will really matter for future finance leaders," said Jamie Lyon, the head of the corporate sector at ACCA and the author of the report. "The survey suggests you can't get away from the need for retaining baseline finance skills, but there are so many more capabilities future CFOs will need to bring to the table, too."

Planning for a future in the finance industry
Lee Ainslie, the head of Maverick Capital, recently spoke with OneWire about his path to the top, and his opinion on the state of hedge fund jobs and other positions in the finance sector. He also stressed the necessity of building a team full of individuals who have many different skills and abilities.

"It's a challenging business in that people have many different opportunities, so you have to build a culture where people really want to be part of your team, want to be part of your collective success, and they feel they're in an environment where they're very likely to be successful," said Ainslie. 

Raef Lawson, vice president of research at IMA, also testified in the ACCA report about the changing face of the finance sector. 

"The finance construct in larger organizations is changing," stated Lawson. "With shared services, outsourcing and increasingly global business service models, traditional career routes through the finance organization are being disrupted."

Lawson went on to note that the CFOs of the future will need to have a "broader, strategic" approach to the finance world, and will need to gain those skills as early as possible during their careers.