Does your finance team need a mentor or coaching?

by | Nov 11, 2020

The Virtual FD Mentorship Service: remote support to upskill your in-house team

Today’s companies require an adaptable team which possesses the ability to grow their skills in alignment with the changing needs of the business.

Adopting a flexible, needs-based approach to developing in-house talent can prove to be an invaluable asset for any business. This is particularly true in cases where the business already has a finance controller in place, but due to lack of expertise or confidence, that individual is unable to take on and excel in directorship tasks. These could include cashflow projection and modelling, draft and review of business plans, delivering management reports, offering insight and analysis to the board, and more…

Virtual FDS’s mentorship service was designed to help businesses to develop their own in-house talent, and to be a reliable resource for individuals in finance controller or finance manager roles, enabling them to achieve greater confidence while expanding their existing skills sets.

As lockdowns drive societal and economic fluctuations, a mentor can provide consistency and ease the return to work of those who have had prolonged experiences of furlough or have gone on medical or maternity leave. Having someone “in your corner” who is highly qualified, empathetic and experienced in flexible working can serve as a lifeline to those who need support in accelerating into an expanded role, or bouncing back from stagnation in their career or skills.

How the service works

​The mentoring service is primarily aimed at qualified accountants (ACA or ACCA) at finance manager level and above who are keen to progress their career. They may be part of an emerging business or medium-sized to large enterprise, or have been hired by a business which is newly founded but looking to grow rapidly.

The mentorship begins with an initial one-hour consultation, where our director Paul sits down with the mentee for a discussion about their career to date, their current role and their future career aspirations. Paul also works to gain an in-depth understanding of the business, its recent developments and current challenges, as well as its future growth objectives.

VFDS then build a bespoke programme designed to fit the mentee’s specific needs. Programmes typically lasting six months and focus on three to four key areas which are likely to be most beneficial in augmenting their current skills set and fostering mid- and long-term career growth.

Although the service is flexible, programmes usually work on a month-to-month basis. Meetings take place for at least for one hour per week; however, the VFDS team provide constant support and remain accessible via phone or email should the mentee need advice or additional support.

What individuals and business stand to gain

​For a mentee, unlimited access to an experienced finance professional can prove to be an invaluable resource, working with them to sharpen their skills and to achieve targeted goals set by the mentor or the business.

In areas where the mentee lacks confidence, the mentor serves as a sounding board, delivering non-judgmental advice and their own insights based on decades of finance directorship experience. This may be particularly beneficial for the mentee if he or she works in a small finance team, where there is unlikely to be anyone at a suitable level with whom they can share their thoughts and ideas.

An inexperienced financial controller may also want the mentor to review board reports and other key management information before the reports are issued to the managing director or CEO. Eventually, the FC will require less robust quality review support, as time goes on and their skills and confidence grow.

Meanwhile, employers stand to gain peace of mind that their finance staff are being continually guided and professionally developed. Thus, managing directors and CEOs can rest assured that the reports and management information provided by the employee are of a very high standard.

Getting back to work after extended leave or furlough

The VFDS’s mentoring service is an ideal solution for any finance professional who is currently taking on an expanded in-house role due to fluctuations in the in-house finance team, or an individual who is resuming their role following furlough or medical or maternity leave.

Individual mentorship programmes can be designed to develop and support medium- to long- term career growth and/or focus on accelerating particular skills over the next three to six months of employment. Bringing in a mentor thus allows the company to demonstrate its commitment to retaining talent by investing in the expansion of their skills, while providing its finance professionals with the tools they need to work independently and remotely.

Strategic talent retention is particularly crucial in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as recent research conducted in the US reveals that as many as a quarter of women are thinking about “downshifting” their careers – i.e. cutting down their hours or making the shift to part-time work – or leaving the workforce completely as a result of the coronavirus crisis. In addition to slowing women’s career progression, this may lead to a catastrophic loss of diversity in the field of financial accounting – an industry which has struggled to overcome underrepresentation of women and minorities in senior roles.

Experts have warned that employers must be proactive in seeking programmes and solutions which mitigate the long-term effects of extended breaks in employment. In addition to mentorship, this could be in the form of returnships, i.e. short-term fixed contracts forming a support bridge back to a permanent role. Business leaders can also communicate their support for workplace flexibility and help, to support returners in the acquisition of new skills related to remote working.

VFDS director Paul Collis comments, “The days of working standard office hours are gone and flexible working arrangements should play into the hands of ambitious women in the finance world. Anyone who is looking to restart or develop a career plan in today’s climate could benefit hugely from a VFDS mentorship, as our programmes provide the knowledge, tools and confidence required to work remotely.

“Following on from the dramatic shifts we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic, remote working is quickly becoming a fact of life, and will play a huge part in finance careers going forward. The faster finance professionals adapt to this phenomenon, the more marketable and valuable they will be to employers. Receiving support and guidance from a mentor who is already set up and adapted to remote working can ensure the mentee has all they need to succeed in their current or future roles.”

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