What are the things an accountant needs in order to successfully transition into the role of a financial analyst? As recruiters for accountants in Toronto, we have seen countless individuals attempt that shift. Some candidates, however, are better equipped to make the leap than others; the choices they have made throughout their professional lives, as well as the skills they have developed and cultivated along the way, have prepared them for the career switch they are now pursuing. Drawing upon our own extensive experience of interviewing and placing candidates in Toronto, we have prepared the following pointers to help you evaluate your team, and determine whether the talent you have in the chair before you are capable of making the transition from an accountant to a financial analyst.
- Social skills: In an accounting role, you enjoy a good amount of autonomy and independence; to the extent that you do have to regularly interact with others, you deal primarily with other finance people. In an analyst function, however, you must be able to work and engage with individuals outside of your department. To gather the information you need in order to carry out your job, you will have to be able to build rapport with people and translate finance terms into the layperson’s language.
- A willingness to be the voice of reason with other teams. Analysts often need to be the bearers of bad news – they are the ones who must provide a reality check to poorly conceived or fiscally unsound plans, even at the risk of being unpopular. If an accountant doesn’t have either the tact or the self-assurance to deliver that message to others, they may need more time to develop these skills.
- A demonstrated track record of success at project work or process improvement. Analysts must be able to accurately assess current conditions, compare and contrast them with their ideal state of affairs, and conceive of ways to close the gap between the two. An analytical thinker should have ample experience both starting and completing projects – winning people over and bringing them onboard, carrying out the legwork, and closing things out.
- The ability to deal with ambiguity. Accounting tends to be historical or backward-looking, in that it mostly deals with the past financial performance and activities of an organization. The analyst position, on the other hand, is largely predictive or forward-looking: analysts must make assumptions, produce estimates and targets, and hazard projections about the future – all of which can be very messy and ambiguous. And when things don’t quite materialize according to plan, an analyst must be able to troubleshoot where things went wrong (and right).
- The ability to make decisions. Sr. Analysts are often approached by non-finance staff as the resident “finance expert.” A potential analyst has to be prepared to bear that kind of responsibility – to make decisions and offer recommendations.
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