Since the 2008 financial crash, companies across sectors have been under greater scrutiny to keep their finances in check. More than ever, there is a demand for leaders and professionals with strong financial skills. The COVID-19 pandemic has also quickly accelerated technological advancement, paving the way for a growth in fintech opportunities.
For MBA graduates today, building the skills you need for success in the finance sector will actually help you make headway in any industry.
Here are four skills that you’ll need for a successful career in finance, and beyond:
If the pandemic has taught leaders anything it's that they need to be prepared for the unexpected and able to adapt quickly when the pace of change shifts dramatically. Leaders must be agile, adaptable, and innovative, not just responding to change but driving the change itself.
Finance offers a clear example of how professionals must predict and adapt to changing trends and patterns. Fintech is a clear example of this; so is green finance and sustainable investment, which has become one of the biggest trends in finance in the past few years.
Companies, both financial and non-financial, are wising up to the impact of their decision making on the environment.
Otto Randl, academic director of the Professional MBA in Finance at WU Executive Academy in Vienna, shows his students that sustainable investing is not only good for the environment—it’s good for the company. “There's been a lot of discussion that investors who invest in green companies can do good, and at the same time, make above average returns.”
This is part of a strong message that Otto is keen to impart to his students: not only about their responsibility as leaders, but also about how quickly trends can change.
“This economic thinking will allow our graduates to think at least one step ahead.”
2. Understanding time and risk
There are two key elements for any company when they are making decisions—time and risk.
For Otto, these are the two most important considerations of any business or leader, and are things which affect almost every decision you have to make. There is, of course, a third thing that matters, which is money—and this is where finance ties it all together.
“With finance, one learns how to deal with the economics of time and risk,” Otto explains.
He points to investment decisions as an example—”There's a time value of money, because people prefer to have cash flows now rather than in the distant future. But there's also a risk adjustment. Risky projects are worth less than safe projects.”
The Professional MBA in Finance at WU Exec aims to provide students with the skills and understanding of finance that will improve their decision making ability. Courses touch on financial risk management and behavioral corporate finance.
On top of this, before the COVID-19 pandemic students participated in an international residency in Boston, and where they learned from some of the top financial faculty in the world—at Harvard Business School.
Understanding how these things influence each other will help MBA graduates to deal with time and risk in almost any context, and ultimately, to make better decisions.
“It allows us not only to answer the questions that we know are hot today, but to find answers to the questions in the future that we do not yet know now,” he explains.
3. Responding to disruptive technology
Post-2008, technology has played a big part in transforming business, and finance is no different. Payments and transactions, regulation, and even accounting are all moving online through the help of financial technology, or fintech. Pandemic-induced technological acceleration has seen a dramatic uptick in online payments through 2021.
Fintech is a rapidly growing sector, and can be found at all levels of business.
“There has been a shift towards these fintech roles, more concerned with implementing strategies with the help of computing power,” Otto explains.
Fintech is a perfect example of how technology is disrupting business overall. Gaining key insights into everything from the power of big data to how machine learning can automate tasks will help leaders to prepare for digital transformation in their companies. This demands well-rounded professionals.
“For fintechs, it's not sufficient to have IT experts—you need both IT skill and finance skill,” Otto adds.
4. Versatility across industries
From startups to Fortune 500 companies, finance is undeniably something that every business has to do. It is useful, therefore, in harnessing an understanding of how to operate across industries.
WU Exec’s Professional MBA places a great emphasis on classroom diversity, bringing together dozens of professionals from varied industries.
“One advantage of an MBA is of course the network, it gets you in touch with other super smart and motivated people, who work together, and this value added is even higher when the cohort is diverse,” Otto says.
This adds to a diverse understanding of how finance is applied, including the different considerations and risks that each industry faces. For graduates, this builds a well-rounded business mindset.
“We are offering insights that go far beyond the traditional finance sector,” Otto says. “Finance is at the core of the long run success of any company."
READ MORE: How An MBA In Finance Will Boost Your Salary