In the evolving world of business, a well-run finance function forms the backbone of every successful organisation. A key position in many Australian commercial accounting teams is the Management Accountant; a finance professional who has a unique set of skills that enables them to navigate the dynamic landscape of sound financial decision-making.
In this article, using our knowledge from taking hundreds of Management Accountant job briefings, we will delve into the essential skills they should bring to the table, how to identify a standout candidate and how their role differs from that of a Financial Accountant.
The role of a Management Accountant
Over recent years the job title of Management Accountant has become intertwined with others as duties commonly overlap. Similar core responsibilities will often be found in positions such as Financial Analyst and Finance Business Partner. No matter the title, these roles have a commonality in that they typically play an instrumental role in providing commercially valuable information that helps determine strategy and decision-making processes within a company.
Five key areas of responsibility in a Management Accountant role include:
- Budgeting and Forecasting: Responsibility for creating budgets and forecasts that guide the allocation of resources.
- Analysis: Analysing accounting information and data across different departments, products, or projects helps identify areas of opportunities.
- Performance Measurement: By tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics, management accountants can provide a clear picture of the organisation's performance, aiding in the assessment of success against set goals.
- Business Partnering: Working with internal stakeholders to help them understand the performance of their division, hit budgets and deliver/exceed desired performance.
- Strategic Decision Support: The interpretation of financial data empowers Management Accountants to offer actionable insights, assisting senior management to make informed, strategic decisions.
To view a sample Management Accountant job description please click here.
Essential skills for Management Accountants
Some of the key critical skills for a Management Accountant role include:
- Commercial and Analytical Nous: A keen eye for detail and the ability to dissect and make sense of complex financial data are essential for uncovering trends, patterns, and opportunities for improvement.
- Strategic Thinking: Management Accountants must think beyond numbers, connecting financial data to business strategies and providing actionable recommendations.
- Communication Skills: Clear written and verbal communication is vital for presenting and discussing finance and accounting insights with non-financial stakeholders, ensuring that everyone understands the data.
- Relationship Building: Soft skills including the ability to build rapport and meaningful relationships with stakeholders are critical to success in this position. In order to build budgets, and reliable forecasts, and understand business drivers, the Management Accountant must be able to liaise effectively with others.
- IT Literacy: Proficiency in financial software and data analysis tools as well as Excel spreadsheets is a must for effective data manipulation and interpretation. More and more often, clients are requesting candidates with capabilities in using a Business Intelligence tool (BI) such as Power BI, Tableau etc..
- Technical Ability: Understanding of how to interpret historical accounting data with a view to interpreting how this may affect the future, thus being able to build robust budgets and accurate forecasts.
- Problem-Solving: The ability to identify challenges, understand ‘the why?’ and propose solutions.
- Qualifications: Typical Certified Management Accountants will have completed either a CPA, CA, CIMA, ACCA or equivalent.
How to assess the skills of a Management Accountant
As mentioned above, the modern-day Management Accountant must have a combination of soft skills and technical skills. To be able to judge who will be the right fit for your role and organisation, we recommend incorporating the following when interviewing:
- Ask the candidate to run through their experience, outlining their relevance to the position description. A good answer will be clear and concise leaving you in no doubt about their background. If you cannot understand what they are explaining, will a non-financial stakeholder comprehend key messages if they were to be employed?
- Involve stakeholders from outside of the finance team that this person will be liaising with within the interview process.
- Use competency-based interview questions that will require your interviewee to draw on past experiences. Make these questions relevant to the skillset you require in your vacancy, e.g.:
- Please can you tell me about a time that you had to convey key financial information to a stakeholder who was not financially literate in a way that they could understand?
- Can you tell me about a time when you used a Business Intelligence tool to simplify a complex data set for your stakeholders?
- What functionalities of Excel did you use on the last Excel model you built? What was the purpose of it?
Salaries and career path
In Sydney, Management Accountants typically progress towards either a Financial Planning & Analysis Manager, Commercial Manager or a broad Finance Manager position.
The Management Accountant's salary will vary depending on the size and complexity of the employer however as a guide, the median remuneration (dependent on experience) for a qualified individual in a medium-sized business in Sydney is currently:
Management Accountant - $100,000 - $120,000 + Super
Senior Management Accountant - $130,000 - $140,000 + Super
Differences between a Management Accountant and Financial Accountant
It is worth addressing a commonly asked question about the difference between a Financial Accountant and a Management Accountant is? While both deal with financial data, their roles and objectives differ significantly.
A simple way to think about it is that Management Accountants tend to be forward-looking whereas Financial Accountants are typically concerned with reporting historical data.
Management Accountants can add huge value to a business. Their ability to translate complex financial data into actionable insights is pivotal for informed decision-making. By possessing a unique blend of analytical prowess, forward-thinking, and effective communication, they serve as vital collaborators in shaping a company's future.
For more information about what to look for in a Management Accountant who will add value to your team, please contact the team at Richard Lloyd Accounting Recruitment.