In today's rapidly evolving financial landscape, finance leaders need a perpetually refreshed set of knowledge and skills. You must embrace a mindset of continuous learning to thrive in such a complex and competitive industry, even after you’ve reached a milestone like becoming a CFO or launching yourself as a CPA.
Both clients and employers value candidates who demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning. Engaging in ongoing education and development shows that you take a proactive approach to staying up-to-date. Investing in yourself makes you more credible to folks who may hire you to handle their money.
In this blog post, we will explore how to stay current with the latest trends and developments, and best practices to keep in mind on your personal and professional development journey.
What Training Do CFOs and CPAs Need?
The professional development training needs of CFOs and CPAs differ from those of other executives. Finance professionals need a detailed understanding of financial concepts, possible industry-specific details, strong technical skills, strategic leadership [skills], and collaborative savvy to perform their roles effectively.
First, of course, you need a deep understanding of financial topics. Your clients and company are relying on you to be the expert in topics like: financial management and reporting, forecasting and budgeting, accounting principles, risk management, auditing, tax planning and law, regulatory compliance, corporate governance, financial analysis tools, and more.
Depending on the industry you work in, you may need even more specific information. For example, if you work in healthcare, manufacturing, or technology, you’ll need training that addresses the specific financial challenges and regulatory frameworks relevant to those sectors.
As technology evolves, ever more quickly and in infinite directions, finance leaders must keep up with the advancements. Explore financial software applications, data analytics platforms, or automation tools that can streamline processes and enhance your capabilities as an individual or in the context of your organization’s work.
Strategic Financial Leadership:
CFOs play a critical role in guiding the financial strategy of an organization. You must be an expert on strategic financial planning, including capital allocation, investment analysis, mergers and acquisitions, and so on. But you also must be proficient in strategic thinking and organizational management in order to lead your team well.
Communication and Collaboration:
CFOs and other senior finance leaders need to collaborate with many other executives and board members and communicate financial concepts to them in terms they understand. Therefore, training in cross-functional communication, team leadership, project management, and business operations can be very useful.
Resources for Finance Experts’ Further Training
You have many options for where and how to pursue finance training and information.
Subscribe to reputable finance publications, including journals and newsletters that provide up-to-date research findings, industry trends and regulatory changes. Set up news alerts online to point you to updates in topics of interest. Read the best books published by finance experts.
Utilize Regulatory Resources
Ensure that you stay connected with regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), or relevant government agencies. They often provide updates to their guidelines and resources, and you are wise to keep up with them to ensure that you stay compliant with changing regulations.
Attend Conferences and Seminars
Participate in finance conferences, seminars, and workshops. Live and pre-recorded events often feature expert speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions that cover trends and updates.
Engage in Continuing Education
Stay up-to-date with the latest industry advancements and best practices by enrolling in continuing education and training courses. Many formats are available — online or in-person, one-time sessions or extended over multiple months. You can focus on very specific technical skills and finance regulations, or developing leadership traits, or emerging technology. Choose something that interests you and will benefit your work.
Options for continuing education for finance professionals include:
- Certifications - get CFA, CPA, or CMA credentials
- Advanced degrees from business schools
- Online study courses
- Webinars and webcasts
Network with Peers
Finally, an outstanding source of new and useful information is your network of finance leaders. Of course, to take advantage of your network, you have to invest in creating and maintaining it. Here are some options to get you started:
Join Professional Associations
Become a member of finance-related professional associations or organizations that offer access to industry-specific resources, people, and events. Some include online forums or discussion groups — mini-communities focused on finance. Participating in these groups allows you to exchange knowledge with and ask questions of peers and industry experts. Valuable insights come from sharing practical experiences.
Follow Thought Leaders
Identify respected finance experts and follow their blogs, social media accounts, and podcasts to gain insights into the perspectives, predictions, and analyses of other leaders.
Seek out esteemed finance professionals who can serve as mentors. No matter how much experience you have, you can learn from someone. Mentors can offer advice and share their expertise as you navigate technical challenges, interpret regulatory changes, and investigate new trends.
Attend industry networking events, conferences held by organizations you’ve joined, local business gatherings, online meetups, or any other kind of event that gives you access to fellow finance professionals. Engage in conversations. Share insights. Listen to what other people are interested in and concerned with. You’re very likely to pick up on something you hadn’t thought of before.
Best Practices for Personal and Professional Growth:
Once you’ve made the decision to invest in yourself, follow these best practices to ensure you make the most of whatever training courses or other development opportunities you pursue.
Set Clear Goals
First, define clear and specific goals. Identify areas you want to improve in, skills you want to develop, or milestones you want to achieve. Having goals provides direction and motivation.
Develop a Growth Mindset
Cultivate a growth mindset. This means embracing challenges, viewing setbacks as learning opportunities, and approaching new experiences with curiosity and a willingness to learn. Decide that you will develop your abilities, and apply dedication and effort to make it happen.
Actively seek feedback from trusted colleagues, supervisors, and mentors. This can be nerve-wracking, especially if you suffer from anxiety. But feedback helps identify areas for improvement, highlights strengths, and provides valuable insights. Use it constructively to enhance your skills and abilities.
Develop Effective Communication Skills
Enhance your communication skills, both written and verbal. Communication is crucial for all aspects of business and personal life, including building relationships, collaborating with others, and conveying ideas clearly. Practice active listening, seek opportunities to improve public speaking, and refine your written communication.
Balance Work and Personal Life
Strive for a healthy work-life balance. Your personal growth is as important as your professional growth. Prioritize self-care, set boundaries, and engage in activities outside of work that help you feel good and perform better, such as hobbies, exercise, or volunteering.
Embrace Leadership Opportunities
Seek out leadership opportunities. Take on challenging projects or mentor junior colleagues. Investigate ideas that may benefit your company. Serve on committees or boards that support causes and organizations you believe in. Develop leadership skills by leading.
Reflect and Self-Assess
Finally, be sure to regularly reflect on your experiences, achievements, and areas for improvement. Engage in self-assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, and progress. Consider technical skills and specialized training you may need to advance your career or help your clients. Use this self-reflection to set new goals, and keep moving forward.
Keep Your Finance Expertise Fresh
The finance industry is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements, changing regulations, and market dynamics. As a CFO, CPA, or other finance pro, you need to stay abreast of finance-specific knowledge, industry-specific information, and the evolution of fintech. You also need to develop skills in general executive skills like leadership tactics, communication, and collaboration.
To keep your knowledge fresh and your finance expertise unmatched, you can subscribe to industry publications, follow regulatory resources, attend events, join organizations, engage in training courses, and network with fellow experts to find the fresh information you need.
For best results, follow best practices like setting clear goals, balancing work and life commitments, and regularly reviewing what you know and what you need to know.
Sharing ideas with like-minded CFOs and CPAs is a great way to find more professional development ideas that work for real finance experts. Consider membership in Kiplinger Advisor Collective, a professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives at the top of their fields. See if you qualify.