How To Become a Financial Manager: Qualifications and Skills
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 12 June 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Financial managers are integral to the day-to-day function of a business. Their deep understanding of financial management and ability to forecast trends make them highly employable in a variety of industries. Unlike many other finance-related jobs, such as accounting and banking, financial managers don't need as many certifications. When hiring for this role, recruiters prefer to learn about your academic background, skills and work experience.
In this article, we discuss what the role of a financial manager is, their average salary, how to become one, their key qualifications and skills and how long it takes to become a financial manager.
Related: Guide: How to Get a Job Fast
What is the role of a financial manager?
A financial manager's primary responsibility is to oversee the budget, operating expenses and income of an organisation. Their goal is to use their expertise in financial management to advise key decision-makers on how to handle financial resources and to alert them to any concerning costs. Since financial managers are in a leadership position, they will usually collaborate with a team to predict future financial trends and put together reports for senior management. Their knowledge and experience are crucial to the sustainability of a business.
Here are some responsibilities most employers will expect financial managers to perform in their role:
Monitoring accounts and cash flow
Gathering data on the company's costs and returns
Analysing financial data to predict future trends
Reporting findings to key stakeholders
Advising on financial business decisions
Producing financial performance reports to inform budgets and cost-saving measures
Developing strategies that minimise financial risk
Overseeing market trends and competitors
The average salary of a financial manager
The average salary a financial manager can command largely depends on their qualifications, work experience and industry. Often, finance is a lucrative career path. These professionals are integral to business operations, however, they can also branch off into consulting, banking and insurance. Some financial managers also set up their own financial management firms, giving them the chance to earn even more.
The wide array of options means that finance managers are always highly employable. The average salary of a financial manager is $517,928 per year. This is a significantly higher wage when compared to other professions in the city. You can even increase your earning potential as you pursue higher education degrees and progress along the corporate ladder.
How to become a financial manager
The following is a step-by-step guide describing the path you would need to take to become a successful financial manager:
1. Pursue higher education
Aspiring financial managers usually begin their career by earning a bachelor's degree in finance or other relevant areas of study, such as business, economics or maths. This step usually takes about three to four years.
It's also important to get some work experience in the industry, while you study at university. For example, banks and financial firms provide valuable summer internship opportunities that boost your future employability. This way, you also get to apply your learning from the classroom in a professional work environment.
2. Build your financial literacy skills
Effective financial managers employ a combination of technical skills and soft skills to analyse data and interpret their findings for others to understand, too. On the data analysis side, you need to confidently use financial reporting tools and software to make sense of information and decipher future trends. You then need to share these findings with key stakeholders. This requires you to effectively use good interpersonal skills to convince your co-workers of your research.
3. Certify your skills
In Hong Kong, there aren't any official certifications required for you to become a financial manager. However, aside from your university education, it's best to certify your technical skills so that they are verifiable, and therefore, more reliable. Common financial manager qualifications include Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certificates.
You can easily attain them by completing a short course in-person or online. These certifications demonstrate your commitment to your chosen career path. In some situations, they can serve as the deciding factor that gets you the role.
4. Develop your work experience
Since financial managers are in a senior business role that impacts the goals and strategies of an organisation, you need to build a solid work portfolio in order to qualify for this role. First, you will start in an entry-level role, such as in an assistant or executive position. As you build confidence in yourself and prove your potential to your supervisors, employers may begin to challenge you with more responsibility. Once you have a proven track record in higher-order decision-making and people management, you will feel more capable of carrying out the duties of a financial manager.
Financial manager qualifications
Most degrees related to business and maths equip you with transferrable skills for a financial advisor position. In Hong Kong, most professionals earn a university qualification in one or more of the following fields before finding a job as a financial manager:
Any one of these degrees is a great pathway to improving your business awareness and financial acumen. They give you hand-on experience with data analysis so that you develop an analytical mind and an eye for detail. After graduation, many finance employees gain exposure to the industry in a full-time position before applying for a postgraduate qualification. While it's not mandatory to earn a master's degree to become a financial manager, it helps you increase your earning potential and makes you a more attractive job candidate.
Key skills for a financial manager
Aside from technical qualifications, you also need to apply a range of soft skills when reporting data and delegating work to other co-workers in the position of a financial manager. Here are some of the key skills most recruiters want to see during an interview for this role:
Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV
Financial managers are key decision-makers in an organisation. In this role, you need to put together a group of trusted advisors you can rely on to gather data and draw conclusions. As a leader, your role is not only to delegate tasks but also to motivate your co-workers. Acting out the values of financial ethics and respect inspires others to follow in your lead.
Data is only useful when you can communicate it with others so that they too can increase their efficiency. That's why financial managers need to practise excellent communication skills in the workplace. This way, you will be able to break down complex financial information into something that novices in the field will also understand. Remember to pay attention to your tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to ensure you sound polite when conversing with your colleagues.
Adaptability skills are your ability to adjust to new situations and to move on from setbacks. The workplace is filled with challenges, however, you can work on your attitude to prepare for them. Adaptability is an essential skill as a financial manager because it helps you make decisions with a sound mind. This can effectively protect your financial interests in the long run.
Successful financial managers can reduce costs and boost returns. This requires excellent negotiation skills. When closing a deal, you will need to consult your budget to find the best financial compromise for both parties involved. You might also need to reject some financial proposals, therefore, improving your negotiation skills can will you navigate these challenges, while maintaining solid working relationships.
Core to your duty as a financial manager is risk management. This means employers will expect you to comfortable identify potential risks and mitigate them. Thus, recruiters will want to see evidence of your ability to regulate your emotions and make sound judgements on behalf of the company.
How long does it take to become a financial manager?
Becoming a financial manager takes about 10 to 12 years. This includes about four to six years of university education and an additional six years of work experience. Higher-level financial managers may also go back to school to attain a master's degree in business or finance. Thus, the timeline of getting to this position can also depend on whether you choose a full-time or part-time course.
While there is no fast-track path to become a financial manager, often, it's your own commitment that determines your career trajectory. A solid work ethic combined with helpful mentors along the way can shape the course of your career. Remember to keep investing in your skills, so that you remain employable despite the volatile nature of the current job market.
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