While there are plenty of ingredients that can add up to a delicious recipe, not every dish requires all of them to be a success. Sometimes, all it takes is a few strong ingredients to make the dish.
The same goes with success in the finance industry.
It definitely helps to bring education, experience, and technical skills to the table. However, there are five key traits that are vital for success in finance that can set you apart from all the others who may have the same basic skills, experience, and education:
- Problem Solving: The finance industry is cyclical and has been known to have volatile times along with challenges related to economic downturns. The last economic crisis of 2007-2008 led to a lending drought with very few financing options, a housing market that was dead in the water, and a plummeting stock market. During this time, what helped turn it all around were finance professionals who were good at solving these types of problems. They were able to put their analytical and creative powerws to work to create new finance solutions to help people get back on their feet, save homes, and create new finance vehicles that stimulate startups and small business. Those same skills also help in the best of times.
- Leadership: While you may not be in the coveted senior-level position, you may land there one day, especially if you exhibit exceptional leadership ability early on in your finance career. From working as part of a team or heading up even the smallest project in a department, leadership skills can help the rest of the group focus, communicate, and collaborate in a way that gets things done. Those that step up and take the initiative are the ones who get noticed for future executive roles because they illustrate they are willing to take responsibility if something doesn’t go as planned. That drive, determination and motivation to get others around you to get just as excited and feel motivated to up their productivity is what any industry needs but is especially valued in finance that does need a strong captain to navigate those choppy market waters.
- Integrity: The last decade has been full of stories of financial companies and finance leaders who have shown less than admirable behavior in terms of their decisions and actions. Stakeholders have been turned off by the risky choices and unethical actions that were essentially fueled by pure greed. As the global business environment has moved more toward accountability, transparency, and social responsibility, it is important to have values that put integrity, honesty, and ethics first and profit second. By not making your decisions about the money but about doing the right thing for customers, investors, and employees, you will win admiration for yourself and the company. Plus, you will feel good, knowing you are making honest choices that help others get loans to purchase homes or grow their business. Consumers and businesses want to be able to trust where they bank and invest, and with integrity can help rebuild that.
- Techno-Nut: The financial environment is adapting to the latest technology like so many other industries. There are online platforms, mobile banking, and Big Data among the many other FinTech applications that are permeating this business segment. It’s not just about whether you understand or learn it, but it’s more that you are actually bursting with excitement about all the technology that is now available. Those who wait and worry about the latest technology are the ones left behind in the race for business. However, the techno-nuts who add technology to their business model in a thoughtful way as quickly as possible are the ones who will lead the pack. Never underestimate technology, from the big opportunities on the small mobile screen, to the small technological advances that make a big difference. You will need to be up to speed on everything available that can drive technology into financial processes to illustrate your enthusiasm for technology. Better yet, if you can actually create some of these disruptive financial technologies, then you are a real standout in the crowd of finance professionals.
- Curiosity: Beyond just taking the time to learn more about the finance industry – from the theory to the real-world application – you need to be curious about why things are the way they are and question how they might change. It’s one thing to read a book, watch a seminar, or take a class, but it’s entirely different to be the person asking questions like “Why?” and “Why Not?” To truly help your customer. This also may mean being curious about what others do in the organization and how that impacts finance, or it might involve an interest in consumer behavior to determine its influence on markets, spending, saving, and investing. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has given life to the finance professional that has dug deeper or probed specific audiences to get the information that the competition is not even wondering about let alone collecting. Curiosity is essential for solving problems and guiding the team toward developing that breakthrough technology.
These ingredients are great on their own, with each one adding flavor to a finance organization. When combined, the ability to problem solve, lead, leverage integrity, push technology, and be curious create an incredible recipe for financial success for you, as the consummate finance professional, and the organization you represent.