There can be a lack of information out there on what exactly you need to do to get that next promotion, so I have spoken to several exceptional finance professionals within the Recruitment & Executive Search sectors to ask for their advice to Management Accountants on how to progress.
A number of finance professionals find it difficult to progress from being a Management Accountant to a Finance Manager/Financial Controller. Why is this the case? There are two reasons. Firstly, there isn’t the opportunity for you to progress. For instance, you may be stuck behind somebody who is limiting your career progress, you’re being held back by a lack of business growth or you’re unable to gain exposure to analysis or reporting responsibilities. Secondly, you’re not displaying all the characteristics to be able to progress.
If you think you fall into the first category, read this blog, and if you still think you fall into the same category, call me today.
If you fall into the second category, I hope this article helps you!
*For the purpose of this article, I will use ‘Finance Manager’ to cover both Finance Managers and Financial Controllers.
As you become more senior, your role will not (generally speaking) be as hands-on as before, and you will need to understand how finance sits within the wider business context.
‘The more you question everything you do, the more you will start to understand why you are doing it. As someone who works in a growing SME as a Finance Manager, it’s imperative that I understand the commercial impact the analysis we do can have on a business... and it can be as simple as reducing or cutting an unnecessary cost.’ – Jeetu Mirpuri, Finance Manager @ Sparta Global
The key difference between being a Finance Manager and an Accountant is the commercial understanding of how the work being carried out impacts the business, either positively or negatively.’ – Louise Whitton, Head of Finance @ the Barton Partnership
‘I have learned the importance of understanding processes from start to finish, and to constantly be looking for efficiencies! The biggest bit of advice I can give to someone looking to make that move is to start partnering with the Front Office and Stakeholders in the business to improve commercial knowledge of how a business runs. Stepping into a role as a Finance Manager or Controller relies on self-motivation and the ability to forward knowledge and thinking of how finance impacts on your business.’ - Matthew Smith, Finance Manager @ Crewing Company
This section is the largest in the article for a reason. Improving your commerciality is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL if you are to progress. You can fulfil every other piece of advice in this blog, but you will have a glass ceiling above you if you struggle to prove you are commercial.
‘If you’re standing still, you’re moving backward.’ An overused phrase? Yes. Accurate though? Absolutely.
‘Management Accountants need to relish learning opportunities and extra responsibility in order to progress to the next level.’ - Louise Whitton, Head of Finance @ The Barton Partnership
‘Be a sponge and learn as much as you possibly can from the people you work with that are superior to you. I have only got to where I am because I have had great mentors in my previous roles. It is important when on the path to becoming a Finance Manager that you work alongside people that can guide and almost mould you into a good Finance Manager. I believe that no amount of studying will shape you into a good Finance Manager, it is based on hard work, learning on the job and good guidance/support.’ – Daisy Harvey, Former FC of IPS Group
‘Try as many roles in finance as possible. i.e AP, AR including credit control, Management accounts, Compliance. The experience you gain in each role will help you manage those respective teams/areas.’
[As a Finance Manager] … you will now not only be focusing on one role/area but instead, you have to manage the whole finance team while covering areas when staff are on sick/annual leave. On top of this, you still have to monitor and plan cashflow which for most recruitment businesses is vital.’ – Shaun Edwards, Finance Manager @ Oyster Partnership
As you move up the career ladder you will become responsible for more areas of the finance function and it is, therefore, crucial you have the knowledge to advise these areas accordingly. Getting a taste for all the different areas will also mean you are able to shape the whole function to be as efficient as possible, which as you become more senior, will be essential. Which leads nicely onto the next point…
‘Firstly, complete your ACCA or equivalent studies. Employers are more willing to give you the job if you are qualified.’ – Shaun Edwards, Finance Manager @ Oyster Partnership
What I’ve noticed over the years is candidates who have completed their studies are viewed favourably by clients. So, if you want to progress, complete your studies.
‘Become a proven leader/manager in your current role. Experience in managing a team in AP/AR/MA will show prospective employers that you are capable of managing a team.’ – Shaun Edwards, Finance Manager @ Oyster Partnership
If you’re performing all the necessary skill-set to carry out the role you’re looking to progress into, you’ll be a natural choice for that promotion. You want your promotion to be ‘just’ a change in job title, rather than a big jump.
But yourself in an employer’s shoes, would you promote somebody who isn’t displaying all the skills necessary to fulfil the job role?
‘The key to progressing into a more senior role within Finance is understanding what the basics mean and getting them right!’ – Jeetu Mirpuri, Finance Manager @ Sparta Global
Whilst there is a lot to take on, don’t forget the primary function of your role, to know the numbers! Never move too far away from the basics. To quote a previous Camino event about becoming a Finance Director, “never be in a position where any of your numbers are being questioned.” (Click here to read our takeaways from that event).
Naturally, as you develop, you will have more responsibilities, but the one thing you can never do is not be on top of the numbers. Know them inside out.
As I mentioned at the start of the blog, there are generally two reasons you’re not yet a Finance Manager, it’s either you’ve reached the glass ceiling with your current employers, or you’re not quite ready for that promotion.
If you’ve read this blog and feel you are fulfilling everything you need to be a Finance Manager, but aren’t getting the promotion you deserve, get in touch with me today and I’ll find somewhere which will recognise and appreciate you.
If you’re not quite ready for that promotion, make sure you’re in a company which will provide you with every opportunity to develop into a Finance Manager one day. As I mentioned earlier, keep learning!
There is a difference between a glass ceiling and being in a company which doesn’t allow you the opportunity to develop these skills. If this is ringing a bell for you, get in touch with me.
email@example.com / 020 3805 5224
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