Accountants do far more than crunch numbers. In fact, technology can now be used to generate a vast array of reports quickly and accurately, and as a result, the role of accountants has shifted from report preparation to interpreting the information these reports provide.
This has seen a shift in the qualities an accountant should have, with business savvy, an ability to see the big picture and a flair for innovative thinking being among the key qualities you need to achieve career success.
Business acumen – a leading quality an accountant should have
A strong head for business is one of the key qualities you need as an accountant. Your ability to understand what the numbers mean and how they impact the company are important.
But if you can tap into your commercial acumen to offer insights into how the company can improve its profitability and productivity, you will be adding considerable value to your employer.
An eye for detail
Financial reports are only as good as the information used to compile them.
A seemingly minor error at data entry stage can snowball as data flows through the reporting process, and having an eye for detail helps you ensure the information you work with is accurate at every stage.
Part of your role as an accountant is to produce information on a timely basis, and even though you may be called on to engage in other tasks or projects, regular reports still need to be compiled by a set date. As a professional accountant, you need excellent organisation skills to prioritise tasks, develop a system that allows you to access information quickly, and effectively manage your own time – and that of your team, in order to continually meet deadlines.
Accounting often means working with highly confidential information. You may also be entrusted with access to company bank accounts, and as your career progresses it’s likely you will bear greater responsibility for the company’s compliance with legal and regulatory matters.
This makes integrity one of the main qualities an accountant should have. Demonstrating ethical behaviour and backing this up with membership to a respected professional accounting body can help employers see that you are trustworthy and discreet.
Numbers may say a great deal to you, but you need to be able to convey complex financial information to a variety of colleagues – some of whom may not have an accounting background. That makes good communication an integral quality to achieve your career goals.
Interpersonal and leadership skills
Your accounting career will see you operate in a team environment, and you need to be able to collaborate with your immediate co-workers as well as colleagues in other departments, and even clients or customers. This calls for strong interpersonal skills to successfully engage with a variety of people and personalities.
Your ability to delegate tasks and mentor your team while also demonstrating leadership through strategic thinking can help you become a valued employee.
Your career in accounting is more likely to flourish when you combine strong technical skills with these highly desirable qualities. If you believe you may be lacking some of these qualities, consider using a mentor or engaging in further professional training and development. You may not innately have all the essential qualities in abundance but they can be nurtured to help you reach your full career potential.