Infographic: Skills of a successful CA

8 September 2016

Being a successful CA is about more than just having a good head for figures and knowing your way around a spreadsheet.

Here at ICAS, we know that succeeding as a CA calls for a well-rounded set of business skills and personal attributes. This infographic takes a look at the components of a successful CA.

Skills of a CA

Communication skills

For CAs, how you communicate is just as important as what you are communicating. CAs need to be able to communicate complex technical information and financial data in a way that people who are not CAs can get to grips with. 

CAs need to communicate well with senior people such as CEOs, board members, clients and investors, and also with their peers and team members too. The best CAs can cut through complex information straight to the facts that matter most to the business or the client. 

They can also adapt their communication style depending on the audience, and use the right channel - whether that's a face-to-face presentation or meeting, a written business report, memo or email.

Tip: Tailor your message depending on who are communicating with. Think about their existing level of knowledge, and what your starting point should be. Put yourself in their shoes – what do they need to know and what questions might they have about the issue?

Commercial awareness

CAs with commercial awareness have a solid understanding of the business environment in which their organisation and their clients operate, and can use it to their advantage. As a CA, knowing how a company operates, the sectors in which it does business, who key competitors are and the issues affecting the business is essential. 

Commercial awareness is a critically important skill, and one that all employers look for. CAs in particular have a key role to play in offering insight and intelligent awareness of the issues affecting the business, often at a strategic level. 

It is also critical that CAs demonstrate commercial awareness in their dealings with clients so that the advice given is contextualised and helps drive businesses forward.

Tip: If you don't already do so, keep up-to-date with the industry you work in. Read the trade press and attend conferences and events relevant to you where possible. Keep an eye on your competitors, and remember that social media can be an excellent source of information, as well as a place to network with your peers.

Ethics and professionalism

With so much in the news about financial mismanagement in many organisations and breaches of ethical codes and standards, CAs find themselves under the ethical spotlight more than ever before. Upholding strong ethical values is a core attribute for a successful CA. 

This is about being able to take an enquiring, questioning approach, and not always accepting information at face value. CAs need to be able to take a step back and see the bigger picture, and apply a healthy dose of professional scepticism to their work – looking behind the figures to get to the truth. 

The ICAS motto 'Quaere Verum' or 'seek the truth' should be at the heart of every CA's approach.

Tip: Be willing to question situations when you have cause for concern.  As your career progresses you will develop a stronger professional network – it's helpful to have someone in that network who you can speak to in confidence to sense check your thoughts when you are concerned about a situation.

Analytical skills

It goes without saying that CAs must know their numbers inside out. However, the ability to analyse and make decisions based on those numbers is critically important for CAs. 

A CA with good analytical skills has the ability to solve complex problems using a logical informed decision-making, using different sources of information to support their chosen approach. The ability to use 'big data' is a key development in business, and something that good CAs are already well aware of. 

The sheer volume and availability of information and data can be overwhelming. However, CAs who can interpret and use this data to drive their business (or their clients' businesses) forward will have a strong competitive advantage.

Tip: The key to using the numbers well is to start with a clear understanding of what the business does, and what its aims are.  Use this context to be selective about the numbers you are going to work with, rather than applying every analytical technique you have learned.

Teamwork skills

CAs are often an integral part of an organisation's strategic top team. Not only do they need to work effectively with people who have similar skills, but as they become more strategic, they also need to collaborate across different departments and business functions, working on multi-disciplinary teams with external clients as well. 

Building relationships with colleagues at all levels as well as clients and other stakeholders, is a fundamentally important CA skill.

Tip: It can be useful to get some feedback on your teamwork skills from the people you work with. For example, you could ask your team, or clients for some confidential feedback about your approach at the end of project or specific piece of work.


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