15 Crucial Skills of An Accountant: Succeed & Improve

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The role of an accountant is crucial to businesses of all sizes. When it comes to the skills of an accountant, there are a handful of hard and soft skills that are required to do the job right.

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Thanks to technological innovations, accountants are able to leverage automation solutions to augment their work, boost their productivity, and further enhance their skills.

Let’s take a look at what is expected of accountants, and how automation solutions are transforming the industry, as well as accounting skills and qualities.

Coming Up

1. What are the Basic Soft Skills of an Accountant?

2. What are the Specialized Skills of an Accountant?

3. What Skills do Accountants Need?

4. How to Boost Your Accounting Skills?

5. How to Optimise Your Accounting Team with Automation?

6. How to Become an Accountant?

7. What Does an Accountant Do?

8. Wrap Up

What are the Basic Soft Skills of an Accountant?

An accountant has to possess a certain range of soft skills in order to do well in the workplace.

Whether an accountant works for a private accounting firm, a corporate, a government entity or another employer, some of the necessary soft skills include:

  • Time management
  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Organization and strong attention to detail
  • Stellar written and verbal communication skills
  • Active listening
  • Clerical knowledge
  • Business knowledge
  • Customer service

What are the Specialized Skills of an Accountant?

When it comes to the technical accounting skills necessary for the job, the list is as long as the soft skills that are beneficial to possess.

However, it’s important to note that automation solutions are helping to maximise an accountant's technical acumen and abilities by allowing software to carry out much of the technical processes. This means that accountants can instead focus their time on high-level and value added work such as analytics and strategic decision-making.

Some technical skills required on the job include:

  • Performing accounts payable and receivable functions
  • Managing payroll
  • Forecasting budgets
  • Producing financial reports that are aligned with accounting standards
  • Understanding the tax code
  • Executing reconciliations

What Skills do Accountants Need?

As we’ve briefly touched on above, accountants need an array of skills to get the job done successfully.

As accountancy departments adopt automation solutions, the typical role of accountants is starting to take a new form as businesses undergo digital transformation. This means that accounts are no longer only bogged down completing manual and data-heavy tasks. Instead, they are widening their scope to serve as strategic business partners within organisations, with the aid of automation solutions.

That being said, the critical skills still remain.

Accountants should possess the following:

1. Business Knowledge

In general, accountants coordinate and collaborate with professionals across departments within a business. That’s why it’s important for them to have general business knowledge and understand how their finance functions affect different departments.

2. Technology Expertise

As time goes on, more technology is deployed within organisations, including within the finance department. As such, it’s of great value when accountants have up-to-date knowledge and understanding of the latest technologies.

It also is helpful when businesses select software solutions that don’t require the utmost IT skills to utilise properly, such as out-of-the-box and low code automation solutions.

3. Communication Skills

You’ll be hard pressed to find a job that doesn’t require strong communication skills. But, when it comes to accountants, they have to work directly with various departments, stakeholders, government agencies, and/or business executives.

They’re responsible for translating (or using automation solutions and sharing) data in a visualised and easy-to-understand format. This means that from verbal communication to written communication to presentation abilities, this skill shows up in many ways.

4. Flexibility & Adaptability

Regulations are constantly changing, as is the technological environment in which accountants function. As such, the best accountants are open to change and remain adaptive and flexible in approaching their day-to-day activities.

For example, just think of how much changed in the blink of an eye because of the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic. Many accountants had to shift to working remotely, while still being able to service every department’s needs and keep business running as usual.

5. Creativity & Problem Solving

As automated reporting and processes become standard in the field, creativity is still required for strategic thinking and problem-solving endeavours. Accountants can express creativity in how they review reports, present data, and connect analytics to real-world decision-making.

6. Customer Service

No matter where an accountant works, customer service is critical. For private firms, accountants must be able to keep customers happy in order to attract and retain them. Within a business, accountants work with their peers and often have to communicate to stakeholders. To perform strong customer service, active listening, organisation skills, and communication are crucial.

7. Experience

The field of accountancy is replete with rules, regulations, and standards. In some cases, there are recommended best practices but no standardised approaches. Over time, accountants can better understand the regulations and develop efficient processes in order to maximise efficiency.

8. Analytical

In the past, accountants had to perform all the manual data-entry and transformation tasks within spreadsheets, and then also analyse the work. Nowadays, automation solutions can manage all the data-heavy and repetitive tasks and produce analytical outputs for accountants to review.

Accountants must have strong analytical skills to interpret what the data means in terms of practical business decisions and actions.

9. Organisational

Accountants have to stay organised throughout their processes and work. In many instances, their work is time-sensitive in nature and must adhere to deadlines beyond their control. By remaining on top of their work and organised, they help to reduce risks to the business.

10. Critical Thinking

With the aid of risk assessment matrices and automation tools, accountants can estimate risks and predict the future before anything takes place. But, in doing so, they have to think critically about the best course of action across the various scenarios that can take place.

11. Time Management

Time management is essential for accountants to possess because, once again, deadlines don’t wait on anyone. Additionally, accountants often work on multiple projects at once which requires the ability to balance tasks, expectations, and processes.

That being said, an automation solution can greatly alleviate the burden on an accountant’s shoulders by executing many timely processes automatically and reducing manual errors in the process.

12. Spreadsheet Proficiency

Even if an automation solution is implemented or not, accountants still need to have working knowledge of how to use spreadsheets. Spreadsheets will still show up within the industry at different frequencies, so it pays to know how to work with them.

13. Team Working, Relationship & Helping Others

While accountants do get a lot of their work done from behind a computer and sometimes by working solo, they collaborate and communicate with an array of people. From their own accounting team to auditors to colleagues across departments and the like, accountants need to know how to work well in a team environment.

14. Writing

Along with the numbers and data-heavy day-to-day work of an accountant, a lot of time is also allocated to writing in terms of sending emails and communicating ideas on the page. Accountants may be responsible for drafting memos on tax returns or financial statements, so writing is a key skill.

15. Ethics & Integrity

Depending on where an accountant works, there may be codes of professional conduct that an accountant must agree to and adhere to in order to fulfill their role. Accountants are required to remain objective, ethical, and honest with regard to their tasks because the financial health and status of a company affects people within and outside of the business.

How to Boost Your Accounting Skills?

The field of accountancy will maintain some of the same functions indefinitely, but it doesn’t mean that things aren’t constantly changing. Additionally, with new technologies entering the space, the role of accountants will progressively transform, as will the expectations of accountant teams.

In order to stay updated with the latest and greatest skills of an accountant, you can pursue accounting certifications available to professionals. Along with educational assets, one of the best ways to continue enhancing your basic accounting skills and technical accounting skills is to have on-the-job experience.

Additionally, it’s of great use to become familiar with automation software and tools that are continuously being deployed within accountant departments.

How to Optimise Your Accounting Team with Automation?

Implementing an automation solution within your accounting team will quickly and naturally optimise their output. Automation solutions can collect data from various sources, centralise and clean the data, keep data secure, transform data to carry out processes, provide end-to-end automation, and generate reports and dashboards.

For example, an automation solution is perfectly suited to perform account reconciliations, which is an otherwise arduous and time-consuming manual task that has the potential to be rife with human error. Additional use cases include: preparing revenue reports, performing forecasts, submitting regulatory reports, analysing expenses, and carrying out transaction matching.

Reports and dashboards are always available in real-time to those who need access Furthermore, with the use of an automation solution, you can rest assured knowing that processes no longer rely on a key person to get the job done.

That means that business continues as usual, even if your senior accountant is sick or out of office. Furthermore, automation solutions make it easy to carry out audit reports as they track and record all data and actions within the system to provide internal or external auditors with a history of what has transpired.

With automation, your team of accountants can display their accountant skills and qualities where they can really shine– on high-level tasks that require human thought and analytical abilities.

How to Become an Accountant?

Most accountants obtain their job by first earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited university. This degree provides them with foundational knowledge, including the necessary skills of an accountant.

For those looking to work in mid-level or senior-positions, then a master’s degree in accounting is preferable. These degrees teach highly specialized and technical accounting skills, such as: taxation, business analysis, data transformation, and international accounting.

To become a certified public accountant (CPA), then an accountant must fulfill the necessary qualifications and pass the CPA exam.

What Does an Accountant Do?

Accountants are responsible for managing many diverse tasks and responsibilities. That’s part of the reason why the skills of an accountant are so varied.

Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Preparing financial reports
  • Overseeing record keeping
  • Making recommendations to business leaders
  • Finding ways to reduce risks
  • Preparing tax returns
  • Advising clients on best practices to minimise taxes
  • Adhering to regulatory requirements

Across the board of job responsibilities, accountants can benefit from utilising financial automation software to carry out time-consuming and data-heavy tasks with accuracy, efficiency, and cost-savings.

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Wrap Up

The skills of an accountant are optimally augmented with the aid of automation tools. From soft to hard skills, the strengths of an accountant come to light when they carry out their daily and quarterly duties.

While it is important to constantly improve one’s basic accounting skills, any company can reap the benefits of deploying an automation solution to maximise an accounting team’s output, productivity, and potential.

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