How do finance professionals make good investments? What does it look like to track market trends in order to manage a budget effectively? Are there tools that can help management analysts and investment bankers bring together finance principles, economic theories, and consumer behavior? The answers to all of these questions begin with developing the necessary finance technical skills to make wise, profitable decisions in business.
As the marketplace and society at large become even more reliant on technology and the virtual space, it is crucial for finance professionals to develop proficiency in digital tools and software. From mastering the go-to program of the financial world — Microsoft Excel — to maneuvering visualization tools like Tableau, finance professionals with well-honed technical skills will be well-equipped to pursue leadership positions in the field.
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One of the key finance technical skills for many professionals is proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Excel features a wide variety of built-in functions that financial analysts, managers, and leaders use daily.
Financial modeling is one of the key features that finance professionals use in Excel. In fact, MBA programs often bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world skill-building by teaching students how to build models using integrated data.
They may also learn how to perform array functions, subroutines, and user-defined functions in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which is Excel’s programming language. Businesses around the world use VBA to perform financial analyses and share their findings with key stakeholders in order to make data-driven decisions.
One of the greatest advantages of Microsoft Excel is the way it integrates with other programs to analyze data and improve financial processes and outcomes.
- For example, fintech company Financial Fabric leverages the information stored in Microsoft Excel through Microsoft Azure Data Explorer, providing keen financial services insights for their customers in a few seconds rather than the half-hour that reports used to take.
- Similarly, Siemens Financial Services uses Microsoft Excel data as the foundation for designing interactive apps for sales, financial calculations, and marketing.
Whether Microsoft Excel is used on its own or in concert with other software, it remains the key tool in the financial industry. Professionals who want to lead in the finance industry will need to hone their Excel skills and learn about the functions, modeling, and integration the program offers.
One of the go-to tools for portfolio managers, investors, and financial analysts is the Bloomberg terminal. A computer system that provides real-time financial data, the Bloomberg terminal keeps investors and financial professionals apprised of changes in the markets. In addition to market data, the terminal provides analytics and access to proprietary trading platforms.
Financial companies, asset managers, investment groups, and family offices cite the benefits of working with a Bloomberg Terminal, including:
- Greater consistency, uniformity, and precision in investment processes
- More data-informed decisions
- Greater value generation for pension funds
- Enhanced compliance and operational speed
- Increased potential for portfolio expansion
- Integrated news, pricing, analytics, electronic trading, settlement, and position management
Many companies and finance professionals use the data visualization software Tableau to perform a variety of finance tasks that range from budget comparisons to investment tracking.
Just to name a few of its features, Tableau can be used to manage compliance, assess company risk, and conduct audits. The platform produces revenue and pricing analytics, manages accounts receivable, and can be used to build forecasting models. Companies use Tableau for their financial operations as well as leveraging it to simplify tasks like managing vendors, sourcing, and travel and expenses.
Here are some of the ways that financial professionals have worked with Tableau to empower and benefit their companies:
Empowering Business Leaders
The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Oldcastle, North America’s leading manufacturer of building products and materials, used Tableau to replace a 500-page monthly report with one accessible dashboard for employees. The secure dashboard is refreshed every night, tracks 78,000 stock-keeping units, and secured the CFO as “a true business partner to the business president.”
Highlighting Numbers That Matter
Building and civil construction company Georgiou Group streamlined board meetings and empowered members to make data-driven decisions through Tableau’s comprehensive summaries.
“Before Tableau, corporate information would be siloed throughout the board report, so board members would need to flick to page 45 for financial results, then back to page 10 for safety results, then onto page 20 for something else,” said Georgiou Group Chief Financial Officer Errol Keyt “Now the process is so much more user friendly, efficient and accurate with a one-page summary at the front of the pack.”
Bridging A Global Divide
Vertex Services, a worldwide distributor of flooring products, manufactures products in Asia and distributes them across the six continents. Without a centralized data warehouse, Vertex’s finance professionals were continually dealing with duplicated processes as well as time zone differences and associated inefficiencies.
"When the management in the US looked for numbers generated from Asia,” explained Vertex CFO Edmund Lai, “we had to deal with the time difference issue...to wait for two days is too long."
The company turned to Tableau to bring all of its data to one hub that employees around the globe could access. Now, as Lai and fellow company leaders develop strategies, oversee operations, and solve problems for Vertex, they are not limited by siloed data, overlapping tasks, or problems of physical distance. Instead, Tableau empowers them to “go down to the root cause a lot easier, a lot quicker.”
Systems Applications and Products (SAP) is a leader in business applications, making it a must-know for professionals who want to develop their finance technical skills. SAP is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that empowers organizations to keep themselves free of data silos as they share data across departments.
When it comes to finance and accounting, SAP features a number of systems and solutions that aspiring leaders in finance will want to explore. Some of these tools are designed for financial planning, budgeting, and analysis, others for accounting, tax management, and compliance. Still, others facilitate the management of cash, debt, risk, and investment, while others help with accounts payable and receivable tasks like risk management, credit evaluation, billing, and collections.
Here are some of the ways that leaders in finance have harnessed SAP products to create positive outcomes for their companies:
- The heads of R&D finance and chief financial officer at healthcare pioneer F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG (Roche) chose the SAP Analytics Cloud to improve its financial forecasting. The result: the ability to generate a $4.2 billion financial forecast in two hours instead of several weeks, and the automatization of 14,000 data entry points.
- Global producer, marketer and provider of technology-based natural ingredients Döhler implemented SAP Cash Application software running on SAP Cloud Platform, to facilitate a fast, accurate end-to-end reconciliation process incorporating customers in 130 countries and over 10,000 offerings in more than 120 product categories. This resulted in the accounts receivable team saving time with a 20% boost in the number of automated financial postings.
- Compressed and liquefied gasses supplier AirFirst Co. Ltd employed SAP Ariba solutions and SAP S/4HANA to integrate their procurement, maintenance, and finance processes, automate invoice verification, payment, procure-to-pay, and order-to-cash processes, make billing more efficient, streamline tax compliance, and more. The integration resulted in a 50% reduction in time to complete month-end closing.
Develop Your Finance Skills for Career Advancement with an Online MBA from St. Bonaventure University
Whether you want to work as a business consultant, financial analyst, or chief financial officer, developing finance technical skills through a Master of Business Administration with a Finance concentration is an ideal place to start. Our online MBA with Finance concentration degree program at St. Bonaventure University prepares students to succeed in the financial sector through courses in investments, managerial economics, and behavioral finance. The program educates students in economic theories, techniques, and finance technical skills like leveraging Microsoft Excel and working in Tableau.
Our online MBA offers one-on-one dedicated support from student support and faculty, small class sizes, and scenario-based projects. Have the option to work full-time while you study with our personalized degree. Further to customizing your MBA content, you can complete courses around existing life commitments anywhere with an internet connection. Learn how to use tools and technology to increase efficiency and encourage innovation, lead effectively and improve business decision-making as a finance professional.
Our School of Business offers graduates a competitive edge as part of the top five percent of business schools worldwide, accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Sharpen your skills for success with an online MBA in finance from St. Bonaventure University.