Businesses today rely on senior-level consultants to provide specialized expertise to key projects or business initiatives that can last weeks, months or even longer. At the same time, many experienced professionals are taking the consulting path because they seek diverse assignments, exposure to different industries, and a flexible schedule that provides them better work-life balance.
Professionals also look to consulting as a way to accelerate their career development. As Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, explained in a recent interview, many professionals “want to move from project to project, and sometimes that means going from company to company.” He also said an “evolution of independent career consultants” is now underway.
According to Hird, a new labor model for finance is helping to drive that evolution. Businesses are relying more on a flexible labor force that includes full-time employees who are focused on critical initiatives; interim and project-based professionals who help to support them, usually for a finite period; and other specialized resources that can offer additional capabilities and perform high-value work on an as-needed basis.
Findings for Robert Half’s Benchmarking Accounting and Finance Functions: 2018 report, developed with Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), provide evidence of this growing trend. The research suggests that flexible teams are becoming increasingly important to the everyday operations of accounting and finance functions at firms of all sizes throughout North America.
An overview of financial consulting roles
Eighty-three percent of top financial executives polled in a Robert Half Management Resources survey said they consider consulting an attractive career option. Professionals looking to make a gradual transition to retirement also often take the consulting path. However, consulting careers aren’t only for those who have C-level titles or are winding down their careers.
There are many types of consulting jobs for accounting and finance professionals with in-demand experience, skills and knowledge to explore. Financial consultants are in demand in virtually every industry. Their expertise is especially critical in the following areas:
- Finance and accounting
- Finance optimization
- Governance, risk and compliance (GRC)
- Operations management
- Business process improvement
- Business systems
Financial consulting roles in business range from senior internal auditor and financial project manager to corporate accounting specialist and business systems analyst. Consultants are also often brought in for these positions:
- Accounting manager
- Finance and financial planning and analysis management
- Human resources (HR)/benefits/payroll
- Internal auditor
- IT auditor
- Senior accountant
- Senior financial analyst
- Business analyst
Hot skills and experience for consultants
As businesses struggle to keep pace with technological change and to understand the associated risks and opportunities of digitalization, they also seek financial consultants who are proficient in the following areas:
- Data analytics
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
- Cloud computing platforms
- Information security tools
- Integrated financial reporting systems
- Systems conversion projects
According to the Benchmarking report, companies undergoing digital transformation especially value experience with data analytics and ERP systems. They also look for professionals with strong communication skills. This is not surprising, as a solid array of nontechnical skills is essential for most accounting and finance jobs today, including consulting jobs.
How consultants can support existing staff
The different types of consulting opportunities available to skilled professionals can also be viewed according to how a consultant will integrate with existing staff members. Options include:
- Interim management — Consultants are brought in to assist companies in transition by serving in key management roles, such as CFO or controller.
- Project management — These types of consultants have the expertise and experience to support projects with defined deliverables and timelines, such as the implementation of an ERP system or preparation for an initial public offering.
- Staff augmentation — When workloads spike, companies enlist the help of consultants to ease the strain on core staff without having to add to their full-time headcount.
Many companies are also engaging consultants through managed business services arrangements. You can learn more about managed business services in this post.
Considering a career in financial consulting?
Check out the listings for consulting jobs on our website to find out what types of roles leading employers are looking to fill.
Also, see this post for insight on what type of consulting salary you might expect for many types of senior-level roles.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated to reflect more current information.