Paul Ratcliffe from Singapore-based HR firm Ignition Global details key findings from a regional survey of shipping and maritime CFOs.
Finance functions in the shipping and maritime industries have been taking on increased responsibilities during the pandemic. CFOs’ priorities have been changing, and the skills required of finance professionals in maritime will evolve over the next five years as the nature of work continues to change.
According to a July survey of 54 Asia-based CFOs in shipping and maritime, the top three areas that have become much more important during the pandemic are forecasting and managing cashflow; credit control management and collecting payments; and Involvement in business strategy and high level decision making.
Finance professionals with industry-specific soft skills are set to be in demand and in short supply
Other areas that have become significantly more important are people management / HR matters and raising capital and new sources of funds.
Very few shipping and maritime industry CFOs reported any area that had become less important during the pandemic, suggesting that finance functions are taking on additional responsibilities and playing a more prominent role in the business during this crisis.
For most companies work from home (WFH) has been implemented successfully. Especially so within finance functions with 69% of shipping and maritime industry CFOs rating WFH implementation as very good or excellent. For the wider business it has been mostly successful, although with more challenges with 47% of CFOs rating WFH implementation across the business as very good or excellent.
A significant minority of companies have had a more negative experience with 11% rating WFH implementation as fair both in the finance function and across the business.
Opinions on WFH as a long term option mirror the experience during Covid-19 with 63% of shipping and maritime industry CFOs more positive about continuing some form of WFH after the pandemic; and the 11% who are now less positive mirroring the 11% who had less positive experiences so far.
Tomorrow’s skill requirements
Shipping and maritime industry CFOs rate the current skill levels of finance professionals most highly for technical accounting skills (53% very good), problem solving (47% very good), and analytical skills (37% very good).
The weakest areas for finance professionals currently are strategic thinking (53% poor or fair), communication (47% poor or fair), and people management (42% poor or fair).
According to those surveyed the areas that will increase most in importance for finance professionals over the next five years are strategic thinking, analytical skills, and commercial acumen. Technical accounting skills are unlikely to become more important with 74% of CFOs believing they will either become less important or maintain the same level of importance.
When we compare the opinions of shipping and maritime CFOs on skill levels of finance professionals to opinions of CFOs from other industries, shipping and maritime industry finance professionals score higher for technical accounting skills (7% higher), technical IT skills (4% higher) and commercial acumen (2% higher); other industries score more highly for people management (4% higher) and communication (2% higher). Analytical skills score the same in shipping and maritime as in other industries.
Based on these results there are some potentially significant skills gaps in finance functions that will need to be addressed by companies or individual finance professionals. Two of the top skills that will become more important over the next five years – strategic thinking and commercial acumen – are currently weaker areas for finance professionals. Hiring from other industries is unlikely to solve these skills gaps in shipping and maritime finance functions because the in-demand skills, strategic thinking and commercial acumen, are currently considered weaker areas for finance professionals by CFOs across all industries; and to be effective commercially and strategically generally requires sector specific knowledge.
Our CFO Insights Report shows those finance professionals who have (or can develop) the ability to look beyond numbers and understand the key commercial and operational drivers of the business, adding industry-specific soft skills to their strong technical accounting, analytical and IT skills are set to be in demand and in short supply in the shipping and maritime industry for the next five years at least.