Industry experience not a must when hiring finance professionals, say 75% of CFOs in Greater China

75% of CFOs would consider hiring finance professionals without relevant industry experience, according to the latest Greater China CFO report from international recruiter Robert Walters entitled ‘Filling the Skills Gap in the Finance Function’.

With increasing expectations from the business, today’s finance professionals have a much broader role than before. This often creates a skills gap – critical thinking and problem solving skills, and commercial aptitude are the two key qualities the finance function lacks according to over half of the CFOs in the region.

“As finance continues its transformation to become a strategic partner to the business, it is more important than ever for CFOs to ensure that the function has the right mix of talent to manage a broad range of responsibilities. If there is a skills gap in the current team, CFOs need to find a suitable solution to fill the gap,” said Matthew Bennett, Managing Director – Greater China, Robert Walters.

Addressing the skills gap through internal upskilling

A majority of CFOs (72%) prefer to upskill the current team when they have to fill the gap. The main reason is to encourage internal promotion and maintain company culture, according to 43% of respondents.  

“For internal upskilling, it is important for CFOs to work closely with the HR function to develop tailored programmes for each individual and ensure that the plans are aligned with the goals of the managers and functions,” noted Bennett. “The HR department can also help to establish a comprehensive performance management system to review progress and decide next steps.” 

Expanding the talent pool when hiring externally

Although internal upskilling is a good way to develop employees and boost staff morale, 23% of CFOs prefer to hire externally to bring in the skills required. In order to expand the talent pool, CFOs are open to considering professionals without relevant industry experience (75%).

“If CFOs find it challenging to find good talent in the local market, they should look outside their industry as professionals from different sectors can bring new ideas into the organisation,” said Bennett. “When hiring externally, an efficient recruitment process is the key to securing the ideal candidate while a thorough orientation programme can help new hires settle into the role as soon as possible.”

“As every organisation has different needs, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to addressing the skills gap within the team. Whether it is through internal upskilling or external hiring, or most often a mix of both measures, a good talent retention and succession plan is crucial to the success of building a best-in-class finance function,” concluded Bennett. 

About the report

The report – ‘Filling the Skills Gap in the Finance Function’ – surveyed over 550 senior finance executives across China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The research explores issues including: skills and qualities that finance professionals need to develop to work as a successful business partner, the main reasons CFOs prefer to fill the skills gap by internal upskilling and external hiring, and best practices in developing the current team and effective ways to expand the talent pool.

Please click to download a full version of the Robert Walters Greater China CFO Report ‘Filling the Skills Gap in the Finance Function’

For further information or interview requests, please contact Virna Chung on or +852 2161 9430


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