What Finance Professionals Learned in 2023

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 12/19/2023
What Finance Professionals Learned in 2023

What did you learn in 2023? Now is the time to press pause and reflect on the past year. 

In finance, we are often asked “the three what’s” — what happened, what does it mean and what do we do next? For us personally, let’s take time to think about the past year, reflect on our own ideas as well as those of our peers, and plan how to best spend our energies in the year ahead.

In this article, finance professionals from AFP’s Asia-Pacific and Middle East and Africa FP&A Advisory Councils shared with us what they learned in 2023. From agility to technology, the groups shared some insightful highlights from the past year.

The Importance of Being Agile

“This year [2023] has been a wake-up call for us to embrace adaptability. It's time to pivot, welcome change and stay agile amid uncertainties.”

“There will always be something you weren't expecting, so make sure your model/forecast process allows for proactive monitoring of key elements and can facilitate multiple in-year changes. For us, changes to base labor costs fluctuated more this year than expected, which had a downstream impact; the usual annual updates to cost recovery didn't suffice.”

“In a post-COVID world, to be agile means pivoting to optimize new ways of working. Resilience requires us to manage through political and market volatility (e.g., semiconductor downturn), and for businesses that may have benefitted during the COVID period (e.g., pharma industries), we have to ride out sharp revenue declines.”

Focus on Clarity of Communication

“It’s important for us to understand the leadership and management requirement before executing any action, in order to avoid mismatch and miscommunication in reporting results.”

Soft skills are a requirement for successful FP&A professionals, especially communication skills and confidence.”

Spend more time considering other people's perspectives. Everyone deserves to feel heard and understood; plus, when we look at things through the eyes of others, we broaden how we think about and approach things.”

“The post-pandemic landscape highlighted the importance of empathy and understanding in professional relationships. I learned to actively listen to diverse perspectives, build trust through open communication, and prioritize well-being within the team.”

Push Yourself (and Each Other) for Growth

“Always move and think beyond the comfort zone, be an out-of-the-box thinker.”

Continuous, lifelong learning is essential to staying relevant and thriving amidst the challenges of today's landscape. Pursuing new skills and knowledge is a means of growth and a path to personal and professional success.”

We can learn a lot from our peers, which opens up avenues for continuous improvement in our daily roles.”

“I learned the importance of striking a good balance between eating right, sleeping well and staying active.”

“Witnessing a massive leadership change in the organization provided invaluable lessons in leading through uncertainty. I learned to be a reliable source of information and guidance for my team, navigate ambiguity with confidence, and inspire motivation in a changing environment.”

Maintain Your Focus on Finance

“I learned how inbound and outbound freights are calculated! I got involved in cost accounting for the first time in my 22-year FP&A career and learned a lot.”

“I learned the importance and benefits of standardizing driver-based forecast methodology.

“The decarbonization target [of the U.S.] has really started to impact business globally, in particular by putting more upward pressure on constrained labor and material resources, which contributes to inflation and then triggers interest rate increases. This has made it all the more important to uncover cost optimization opportunities within the organization and provide data-driven facts illustrating where cost increases are not the result of inflation, but rather inefficiencies or reduced productivity creeping in.”

Embrace Technology

“I learned how to leverage AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard for efficiency, productivity, speed and accuracy in my work. I use these tools in the following ways:

  • Creating job descriptions for LinkedIn “we’re hiring” posts.
  • Creating finance and accounting 101 training presentations for non-finance staff.
  • Thinking through the different steps and the sequencing of steps that might be required to achieve a particular project outcome.
  • Improving the drafting quality of emails and presentations.

“I’m also uploading our competitors’ and peers’ annual and quarterly reports into some generative AI/natural language processing applications in order to ask questions about their sales and go-to-market strategies. The AI tool is able to fully digest the reports in seconds and decode their sales and strategies along with many other things.”

What’s next for the year ahead? Check out goals for 2024 from members of the FP&A Advisory Councils and learn how they set goals.

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