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Finance professionals are hard to find

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Over the past nine years, accounting and finance positions have been among the most difficult for South African companies to fill.

This is one of the findings form an analysis of data from Manpower South Africa’s annual Talent Shortage Survey (TSS) since its inception nine years ago.

Manpower South Africa MD Lyndy van den Barselaar explains that the skills deficit in the country is affecting almost all its major industries, and the financial services industry is no exception.

“These results do not indicate merely a shortage of candidates with the necessary skills, but may also indicate that there is a lack of candidates who possess the desirable behavioural characteristics that employers in this industry are looking for,” she says.

In the evolving business environment, businesses are realising the increased importance of pre-screening employees to ensure they are well suited for the position, she adds. “This ensures job satisfaction and maximum productivity from the employee, ultimately benefitting the organisation as a whole.”

Mark Cunningham, CEO of talent management solutions provider Profiles International South Africa, says that the right characteristics are important in building a strong workforce. Through one of the company’s many assessment models, certain characteristics have been identified as important for those looking to enter the financial services industry.

For those in the financial services industry, high manageability is an important trait, as they often work under supervision or under the guidance of a manager. “Being able to work together effectively will ensure the best possible service for clients, who often have extremely high expectations of their financial service providers,” says Van den Barselaar.

Additionally, attitude and objective judgement have been identified as important characteristics for those looking to enter the financial services industry. “Give the sensitive nature of the products and services offered by organisations in this industry, a positive and helpful attitude goes a long way. Objective judgement is extremely important when working with client’s assets, especially when assisting them with investment,” Van den Barselaar adds.

Meanwhile, Cunningham explains that it is important to take into account the kind of responsibility the individual will be undertaking when looking into the most desirable personality traits for a possible candidate. “For example, those in auditing or quality management functions in this industry should ideally have low sociability, attitude and energy.”

He notes that these behavioral characteristics are used in the context of the assessment model, and should not be taken out of context.

“By way of example the difference between high energy and low energy is not one of hard working and laziness. It is rather the difference between the individuals need for multiple points of stimuli versus a natural tendency to focus on one thing at a time.

“Similarly high and low attitude scores are not synonymous with good and bad attitude as used in the vernacular. A high attitude score reflects a trusting high expectation of positive outcomes, while a low attitude score reflects a more skeptical or questioning approach – such as one which is more appropriate to a quality control practitioner, auditor or engineer, for example,” he says.

“The financial services industry is not only a fast-paced and stressful industry, but is also an industry currently experiencing considerable growth as people look to spend and invest their money more wisely, given the rising costs of living and doing business,” says Van den Barselaar. “Consumers look to these individuals for advice and guidance with some of their most important assets, which requires a level of trust. This raises the importance of the role behavioural characteristics play for those looking to finding employment in this industry.”