How to become a financial manager (Including skills)
Updated 8 August 2023
It's beneficial for a business to correctly manage and optimise its finances, particularly in terms of budgeting and overheads. A business typically has a full finance or accounts department that deals with the financial side of the operation. As a financial manager, you might oversees the financial health of the company and be part of a team that may include a range of financial professionals. In this article, we explore what a financial manager is, how to become a financial manager and the skills or qualifications you may need.
What is a financial manager?
A financial manager is a financial professional who manages the financial health of a business by handling budgeting, tax responsibilities and ensuring the business follows financial regulations. A financial manager is sometimes referred to as a financial controller, treasurer or finance officer. The financial manager may work as part of a finance department or alongside the team, reporting to senior management or C-suite employees. Most businesses have a financial manager, although larger companies in the insurance or financial sectors may have several who work as part of a larger management team.
How to become a financial manager
Part of learning how to become a financial manager includes considering the type of education you might require, specific qualifications and certifications. Many employers expect some form of higher education, industry-specific certifications or diplomas that demonstrate an understanding of financial concepts and the wider market. Having this foundation of knowledge makes it easier for you to gain work experience and stand out during the application process. You can use the following steps as a guide on how to become a financial manager:
1. Earn a secondary education
The first step to becoming a financial manager is earning good grades in a GCSE or A-Level education. Since many employers require higher education to become a financial manager, first gain the relevant school grades in related fields, such as business, mathematics, statistics or economics. This helps you build a fundamental understanding of core concepts and sets you up to earn a place on a relevant undergraduate and even postgraduate course. During this time, you may also learn more about working in the finance sector through your own research.
2. Earn a higher education degree
An undergraduate degree is the next step to becoming a financial manager. Earning your degree shows you have the requisite knowledge to be a financial manager and the drive and passion for the industry. You may consider a degree in finance and accounting or a more specialised finance degree, depending on your options for higher education.
The majority of finance degrees are courses of three years, although some offer four-year courses with the option of placement within a business. Once you have your undergraduate degree, you may consider applying for a postgraduate course to expand your knowledge and build more advanced skills. The finance sector is broad and has a number of different potential routes into the industry. An MSc degree in finance is an excellent way of demonstrating deeper skills and has the potential to open up new opportunities in larger firms that offer better pay and career advancement potential.
3. Highlight relevant qualifications and skills on your CV
Before you start applying for roles in the finance industry, you may consider developing your CV to best show your qualifications, certifications and skills. If you do complete an undergraduate and postgraduate degree, be sure to highlight this within the achievements section of your CV. Consider tailoring your CV to the individual roles you're applying for, as this allows you to specifically highlight where you meet the requirements listed in the job description. For a better chance of having a successful application, it's worth also creating a cover letter to go alongside your CV.
Related: What does a financial manager do?
4. Build work experience
While you can't expect to begin an immediate role as a financial manager, you can build work experience in a related entry-level role. You may look to work as part of an accounts team or within a bank, as this can teach you more about the financial sector and how financial managers operate. Having related experience doesn't just help you during your application but also gives you a foundation for earning industry certifications that can make you a stand-out candidate. While building experience, you may find a senior professional who can answer your questions or mentor you.
5. Earn a certification
Earning industry-specific certifications can help you build on your existing knowledge while also demonstrating an understanding of the wider industry. There are a number of certifications that can help you learn more while demonstrating to potential employers that you have the skills to work as a financial manager. You may consider a certification in financial risk, become a certified financial planner or even consider a chartered certification. All of these courses allow you to become more specialised and are recognised throughout the industry, which can benefit you during your job application.
6. Build your contacts and knowledge
During your career, you may meet a range of people across a variety of roles and businesses. This is the best time to meet new contacts and build your network while learning new skills within the financial sector. If you're working in the financial sector, take the time to learn more about the various processes, technical terms and challenges a financial manager may experience. Speak with any senior members of staff, particularly financial managers, that may be able to provide more context around your career goals.
7. Build soft skills
While your education helps you learn more about finance-specific subjects, soft transferable skills can help you build a long-term career and excel in a number of different roles. During your time in the finance sector, consider how you can expand your attention to detail, organisation and analytical skills, as all of these are crucial for excelling as a financial manager.
What skills does a financial manager need?
The core skills a financial manager need revolves around having a highly developed set of financial knowledge and management skills. It's critical for a financial manager to be able to evaluate financial data, analyse queries and rationalise based on their findings. Financial managers also are required to lead a team and report to senior management in a clear, concise manner.
A primary function of a financial manager is analysing large amounts of financial data to better understand the health of the business. They may evaluate financial trends and use their findings to inform future business decisions. Analytical skills help a financial manager quickly understand quantitative data and how financial processes may impact a business. Financial managers also report their findings to senior management, which requires good analytical skills to accurately provide useful data.
It's beneficial if a finance manager is able to accurately convey complex financial information in an easy-to-understand way, especially if they're reporting to less technically savvy stakeholders. This requires a range of written and verbal communication skills that allow a financial manager to provide concise recommendations, summaries and potential actions in the future. Finance managers also regularly interact with financial departments, which requires having the relevant communication skills to collaborate and share large amounts of technical information efficiently.
Related: What are communication skills?
Finance managers typically use a range of computer software to analyse data and build reports. A financial manager typically may use a specific set of finance software and basic computing suites. Having a fundamental understanding of how these programs work and how their more advanced functions can help a financial manager is beneficial during the job application process. An individual looking to work in finance may take on some courses in common financial software prior to applying for related roles.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail ensures a financial manager can spot inconsistencies or errors that may result in further issues down the line. Since financial managers are often dealing with large amounts of sensitive financial data, it's vital that every number adds up. Having strong detail-oriented skills allows a financial manager to effectively spot financial trends and analyse financial reporting to inform future business decisions. Having good attention to detail also helps individuals in this role when they're reporting on financial data back to key stakeholders that may need a concise summary of different financial concepts.
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