Skilling-Up: Finance

A few days ago we spoke of the ways to kickstart your upskilling journey for marketing and digital marketing. You can find the article here. Today we are going to talk about Finance and how you can upskill yourself for the new-age Finance industry.
 
What skills does the finance industry comprise
Few functions are as diverse as finance, with a wide variety of sub-skills and specialisations. In fact, it can be seen as a matrix of hard skills and industry segments. Hard skills like Accounting, Tax, Financial Analysis, Financial Modelling, Valuation, Investment research etc intersect and criss-cross with industry segments within the Financial Services Industry such as Commercial Banking, Investment Banking, Private Equity, Wealth Management, Fin-Tech, Specialist Accounting/Assurance services, Equity Research, Credit Research etc. These latter are complex areas and each needs a variety of skills to have justice done to it. Learn about some of these skills in detail here.
 
Both elements of this matrix, hard finance skills, as well as financial services industry skills, need upskilling for different reasons. In fact as per an industry report, the projected manpower requirement of the Indian BFSI workforce by 2022 is 8.5 million - an increase of about 4 - 4.5 million from where we are today. As the finance industry is on the growth path, many experts in the industry agree that skill development is the need of the hour. So not only is there a need for you to update your skills, there is also a huge need for your skills once you have ensured they are industry aligned. To find out what skills are seen by The BFSI Sector Skill Council of India as the most valuable, go here and scroll down to the ‘Resources’ section.
 
Why do we need to upskill in finance
Like mentioned in the above section, both hard finance skills, as well as financial services industry skills, need upskilling for different reasons. Finance as a function has a unique challenge wrt upskilling, which is that some of the aspects related to doing a finance job well move very quickly - regulatory information, industry practice, stock markets and products that cater to it, etc - are in a constant state of evolution. For somebody coming back after a break, and if their core expertise falls in any of these areas, they will be well served to update themselves on these before they start looking out.
 
For example, for the hard finance skill of Accounting or Tax, it would be important to understand how the introduction of GST has changed the fiscal landscape of the country, and get upskilled accordingly. Similarly there would be a need to catch up with other regulations like Companies Act, Taxation rules etc. This holds true for the financial services industry as well.Even specialist skills get dated very quickly, with market movements, new instruments, etc changing constantly. For example, if you are an equity research analyst tracking the India mid-cap market, before re-entering, you need to refresh your understanding of this segment, know the new companies that have entered, the returns that the industry is delivering, new revenue and profit models that are emerging, where the segment is headed, etc.
 
Apart from this, the digital age that we are in and the quick pace of technology and its overlap with everything in our lives, has further transformed the financial services industry which has created the need for other types of reskilling as well. Read about some of the Top Trends and specifically the Digital Transformation ones here and here.
 
Broad Transformation trends in Finance
There are three broad trends emerging
  • Digital and mobile first: this is the era of convenience in banking, with almost everything digitised and available at the click of a button. For the industry too, it has been beneficial by reducing the cost of banking transactions, improving revenue and eliminating several intermediary processes that erstwhile led to errors. The next wave of change will be for the industry to adopt IoT and voice services, which have the potential to make the customer’s banking experience even more seamless. If you are aspiring to re-enter the banking industry today, you should be savvy with these new trends and technology, as well as tuned into what can be the future
  • The rise of Fintech: everything from consumer-facing technologies like the Unified Payments Interface to back-end infrastructural technologies like Blockchain to algorithms that enable more inclusive and higher ROI-driven Retail and SMSE lending is being revolutionised by the rise of fintech companies. Even traditional finance players today have realised the importance of fintech and are embracing it to bring value to their stakeholders. This is leading to an explosion of new skilling opportunities in the space, ones that blur the boundaries between different functions - fintech quite literally is a convergence of finance and technology, and for those of you inclined towards technology, this could create a whole new career path. Check out this link as one example of how you could upskill yourself to make yourself fintech ready.
  • Automation: As are all other industries, so is financial services moving towards increased automation. With AI-led customer service, and even robo-advisories, automation is going to pervade all aspects of the ecosystem. Even in the last decade or so, what used to take multiple levels of human intervention is being done today at the click of a button. Fintech additionally is creating models that outsource a large part of the data crunching and pattern recognition tasks to technology - for example what was traditionally done as ‘credit risk assessment’ has been rapidly automated by Fintech companies. However the upside to this is that people and professionals have the higher-order task of using this data to make informed and judicious decisions. That means finance professionals today need to adapt and upskill themselves to be able to work with these intelligent tools and extract the maximum value from them.
How to upskill in Finance
And now we bring to you some of the sources and means of upskilling in finance and the financial services industry. These are guidelines and you must do your own research before you arrive at the best avenues for yourself -
  • Keep yourself in the loop by maintaining contact with your professional institute networks, by keeping an eye out for continuous education programmes and through subscribing to professional journals in your field
  • Keep yourself updated on the Regulatory environment by using the sites of professional organisations such as https://www.icai.org/, http://www.mca.gov.in/, https://www.caclubindia.com/
  • Skill yourself by making use of the bounty that is available to us today in the form of courses on every generic or specialised skill -
    • Refresher for Generic Finance Skills like Financial Modelling & Valuation through these kinds of courses
    • Learning specialized skills, such as IFRS for Accounting and Financial Services Skills such as  Equity Research, Investment Banking, Fundamental Analysis, etc. through platforms such as this, this and this
    • A whole host of skills from top Universities of the World through Coursera, or from Top Experts from Udemy and other such MOOCs
  • Build your network and expertise by reaching out to other similarly minded people or those who can help you, by blogging or writing about your experiences, and actively seeking feedback
  • Most importantly, practice your skills by investing in the stock market, tracking the economy and market trends. This is where you hit the road and build practical knowledge and credibility for yourself
  • And finally, accept assignments in new areas of work, even if initially they don’t pay much or don’t pay at all - view them as routes to open up the professional world
Furthermore, we leave you with a sneak peak of tomorrow. The very role of Finance is undergoing a massive change, as you can read here. All of the present and some of these future skills, point towards an explosion in the industry, and whether you are tech-driven, data-driven or in it for the love of helping businesses and economies grow - there is something for everyone. Find your niche, and build yourself not only into the best returnship candidate, but like we always say, into the best hire in the room. All the best!