If your business is struggling to recruit top financial talent, then you’re not alone.
More than ever, accessing people with the right financial skills has become something of a circular or continuous recruitment strategy for energy businesses of all shapes and sizes.
The skills shortage is not just the result of dramatic growth in the energy jobs market.
There is a 10-to-15-year experience gap caused by reductions in headcount and underinvestment dating back to the 2008 financial crisis, especially as graduate and entry programmes were cut.
Covid then compounded the situation at both junior and senior levels as many experienced people left the workplace altogether.
Recent recruits now working from home missed out on essential office time and on the job learning opportunities.
Senior short term finance experience to support the growth of the company is especially in short supply.
On the plus side, there has never been a more exciting time to enter the energy sector.
Finance skills are now embedded into every project, and the number of projects is burgeoning as the energy transition drives change.
The drive towards ESG reporting and the shift towards renewables are attracting younger generations to work in energy in much greater numbers.
However, redundancies in sectors such as tech are creating unease. Geopolitics is a contributing factor. There is caution especially among more senior candidates.
“Sanctions, conflict and volatility are driving a lot of uncertainty,” one finance director told us. “People are being careful. There is always a certain degree of movement, but senior positions are more stagnant. There have been redundancies, but people are cautious.
“Finance is under pressure. There is a need for additional liquidity because of the drop in prices, which is unexpected after the sanctions. There is a lot more volume needing more credit lines and more liquidity. While oil and gas are still booming market, there is forever talk of cost.”
Priorities are split between securing additional liquidity and doubling down on processes.
Variously described as creating “one source of truth” and “silent running”, finance heads are responding to calls both to ensure financial safety and drive efficiencies through systems automation, integration and streamlining to create scalable operations.
A turbulent global economy also means budgets are under much closer scrutiny, placing more pressure on financial teams to deliver an up to the minute snapshot of company spending and exposure.
In turn, this is driving the skills requirements.
Structured finance experience was most frequently mentioned when we asked our finance contacts about the changing skills agenda – followed by technical and financial modeling skills. Automation is still seen as both an opportunity and a threat, on the one hand removing repetitive, monotonous work and freeing up teams for added value, analytical work.
ESG is a new area of financial responsibility.
Businesses are carving out teams to drive decarbonisation capable of responding to new policy and reporting requirements by delivering robust KPIs and measurement.
Employers need to put development programmes in place to address skills shortages, ensure they have the ESG credentials and flexibility to attract entry-level, diverse talent – and keep an open mind and an open brief.
Accessing talent means exploring every avenue: “We’re developing people in house, introducing a graduate programme, drawing on the apprenticeship levy to attract school leavers, and encouraging internal moves,” said another finance head.
At the entry level, candidates need to ensure they have the right technical and software skills for the role, and that they show an aptitude and interest in learning new skills.
They also need to be good communicators to engage all parts of the business in reporting and data.
“Digital skills are my number one priority,” one finance head told us. “We are building Power BI skills in the finance team instead of IT.”
AI, while still in development and long term, is set to be more of an enabler of traditional finance roles than a replacer.
One finance head said, “Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually drive change, but for the time being it is too expensive. More manual processes like Python and Power BI are driving efficiencies, and some companies are outsourcing to Eastern Europe.”
“By increasing transparency, technology reduces risk, enables information flow and sharing and speeds up trading,” we were told. “It is the future of automating day to day tasks and allowing us to become more analytical.”