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Unique: How Millennials in Finance View Themselves

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 5/2/2016
ThinkstockPhotos-485462532To improve our understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities millennials bring to the finance function, AFP interviewed two millennial finance professionals: Bryon Baxter, senior financial analyst at telecommunications company CommScope, and Chris Ortega, MBA, manager of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) at software company WebLink International.

Ortega’s and Baxter’s responses shed light on how millennials view themselves within the context of finance. Their main point is that companies need to adjust how they manage this younger generation to take advantage of the breadth of their skills, ambition and yearning for learning. Instead of viewing these as detrimental to employment, senior finance executives can turn these characteristics into powerful motivators and develop strong performers.

AFP: What unique skills does your generation bring to the finance function?

Baxter:
Our generation brings with it a tech savviness that perhaps wasn’t there before. Millennials are very open-minded and good communicators who easily adapt to any kind of change, in process or organization. Compared to older generations, we are more open to new experiences. We are also able to quickly adapt to new technologies and provide better analysis to our internal customers.

Ortega: This generation is all about continuous development, improvement and constant learning. When I look back at my work transitions, it was always about reaching a ceiling and looking for opportunities for more growth. The moment we’re not learning and growing, companies are not leveraging our skills.

The unique skills millennials bring to the finance function is their creative thinking and intellectual curiosity. We’re analytical by nature. Millennials always ask the why questions, i.e., ‘why are things being done this way?’ We want a full picture of it. Millennials are not content putting in a routine eight-hour day. We want diversity and to work on high-value new projects.

The other top skill is the ability and desire to leverage technology and social media. If you’re a company and your technology is so far behind, it’s going to be hard to keep millennials on the job. There are such cool technology tools out there, FP&A software and finance apps. Specifically in finance, if you’re operating solely on Excel, it’s going to be hard to retain millennials.

AFP: Do you see millennials lacking in any particular skillset?

Baxter:
The one thing is that perhaps millennials lack is a sense of loyalty to their companies. A lot of them, particular the younger wave, spend one to two years in a company and then move on. Mainly, that’s because they’ve not been provided with an opportunity for growth. In general, we bring to the workforce the same kind of professional skills that are on par with today’s business needs. Universities have tailored their curriculum to ensure graduates have the technical skills, communication skills and the business acumen that organizations are looking for.

Ortega: Millennials do lack some more traditional skills. They’re not very high on patience. Sometimes you have to trust the process. The other potential drawback is lack of focus on detail. Millennials may rush through a project and complete 90 percent of it but don’t do the last 10 percent needed to finish it off. Millennials run so fast that attention gets lost in the process.

A longer version of this article will appear in an upcoming edition of AFP Exchange.
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