Less than 20% of CFOs are confident their finance team can support growth over the next five years

Good morning,

Talent acquisition and retention are high on the agenda of CFOs. But as the war for talent rages, finance chiefs worry whether they’ll find the right candidates with the skills to push forward digital transformation, according to new research. 

Today, BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL), a provider of financial controls and automation software, released a white paper titled, Today’s must-have skills for tomorrow’s growth. The findings are based on a qualitative survey of 575 C-level and 576 finance and accounting professionals in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Australia, and Singapore conducted by Censuswide. A key finding: just 14% of CFOs surveyed are confident that their finance team has the skills required to help their companies grow and adapt over the next five years

The leaders named the areas with prevalent gaps: leadership skills, tech skills, and strategic thinking. About 38% of respondents said some members on their team lack the broad business leadership knowledge required today. Meanwhile, 35% said not everyone on their team has skillsets in strategic work like analysis and planning. And 34% noted the finance and accounting function is failing to keep up with other areas of the business in digital transformation. 

The biggest challenge for recruiting future talent—about 36% of overall respondents said it is hard to find new candidates with technology skills along with finance and accounting skills. The training for these skills must start in academia. In the U.S., academics suggested that universities need to do more by offering curriculums that address the changing nature of finance and accounting, according to the report. To delve more into this topic, I asked Gregory Dawson, Ph.D., of Arizona State University’s School of Accountancy, and former advisory partner at PwC, about BlackLine’s findings. 

“Finance and accounting have experienced a dramatic technology-driven revolution,” Dawson explains. “Historically, graduates were expected to manually perform numerous rote tasks for the first part of their careers. The impact of this was that many could simply be doers rather than thinkers.” He continues, “In today’s world, the technology does the ‘doing,’ freeing up time for our future finance leaders to become more engaged in understanding business impact from the outset of their careers. Universities can no longer be content with simply teaching their students how to perform process-based tasks.”

That marks a huge opportunity though, for both students and professors, Dawson says. “This is an exciting time for finance and accounting graduates and for those of us teaching them,” he explains. “In my experience, today’s graduates are charged with tasks that previously would not have been expected until their third year in practice. For us in academia, we can fully focus on teaching our students how to think strategically.

How can companies continue this enthusiasm for finance? “While we in academia can prepare graduates for this new automated world, organizations have to transform how they develop and support graduates once in the workplace,” Dawson says. “Now, with many of the manual processes negated by technology, finance leaders have the opportunity to actively teach new hires how to interpret output and create strategic insights from data from day one.”

BlackLine CFO Mark Partin says he understands this importance. “It’s encouraging to see from our research that there is real and recognized change happening within the world of academia, all of which better prepares graduates for the world of modern finance and accounting,” Partin says. “This will mean little, however, if finance talent is not harnessed and developed in the right way once they enter the world of work.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

The recent National Trends in Disability Employment monthly update issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability found employment for people with disabilities is reaching unprecedented levels. The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 36.4% in September to 36.8% in October. "The October 2021 employment-to-population ratio of 36.8% exceeds the September 2008 employment-to-population ratio of 32.7%, which is when the BLS first started to officially report employment figures for people with disabilities," Andrew Houtenville, professor of economics and the research director of the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability, said in a statement. 

Courtesy of the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability 

Going deeper

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new rules on Nov. 4 stating companies, including federal contractors, will have until Jan. 4 to ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A new study by Qualtrics, a technology platform, found that 55% of U.S. workers surveyed said they would consider reporting a coworker for violating a vaccine mandate. And 75% of unvaccinated workers said they are considering leaving their job when mandates go into effect. Qualtrics surveyed 1,309 employees in the U.S.


Donald R. Marvin was named CFO, EVP and chief operating officer (COO) at Chemomab Therapeutics Ltd. (Nasdaq: CMMB), a clinical-stage biotech company. Marvin is a biotechnology executive with over 35 years of experience. Until its acquisition earlier this year, he served as EVP and CFO of Lodo Therapeutics. Marvin was previously chairman, president and CEO of Concentric. Before Concentric, he was president and CEO of IdentiGEN. Marvin was a co-founder of Nasdaq-traded Orchid BioSciences, where he served as COO, CFO and SVP of corporate development. Earlier in his career, he held positions of increasing responsibility at Abbott, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer and PepsiCo.

Craig Pommells was named SVP and CFO at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (Nasdaq: CBRL), effective December 6. Pommells will report to the company's president and CEO Sandra B. Cochran. Pommells has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, most recently as the EVP and CFO at Red Lobster. Prior to Red Lobster, he spent more than 10 years with Darden Restaurants in various finance and business analytics roles.


"Despite the tragic human toll, the Delta variant has left a limited imprint on U.S. financial markets."

—The Federal Reserve's assessment in its latest report on financial stability, as reported by Reuters

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