Modern financial analysts do much more than number crunching. And just as information technology changes the way we live and work, financial analyst skills must evolve to meet expectations.

Financial analysts and business analysts who understand statistics and command a firm grasp of database analytics can tap into the ever-growing flow of big data to make valuable enterprise-wide contributions. A talented analyst could easily focus his efforts on strategic process improvements in areas such as human resources or operations. IT skills, such as systems analysis and proficiency with large enterprise resource planning systems, are also in great demand.

Simply put, those who can acquire and maintain the top financial analyst skills will find an abundance of opportunities for employment and professional growth. What skills and abilities are in demand?

1. Collaboration and leadership

The trend toward a more IT- and analytics-savvy finance function requires a financial analyst to make more frequent, tangible contributions across departments. As such, many corporate management teams rely on their top analytics talent to facilitate and justify decision-making, with the relationship frequently evolving into more of a partnership — or, as you might call it, cross-departmental collaboration.

2. Strategic thinking

For companies, having strategically minded people with the skills and abilities to deliver actionable, data-driven conclusions can lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings, ultimately impacting the bottom line. As a financial analyst, the equation is simple: Having strategic-thinking skills can bring success to companies and help you move rapidly up the corporate ladder.

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3. Data analytics know-how

Data analytics requires a knack for recognizing meta-patterns and understanding the ramifications of changing patterns. If you want to dig deeper into big data analytics, consider online training or a certification program. Once you've got the basic data analytics skills under your belt, you can volunteer for an analytics or informatics project gearing up at your workplace.

4. Information technology

Financial analysts with the job skills to work with IT management on issues such as cloud migration, data security and privacy are definitely a step ahead. Fortunately, picking up new IT skills is a relatively straightforward process. For instance, you can pursue a certification, such as those given in recognition of proficiency with as Hyperion or Microsoft Dynamics GP, the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) designation from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) program from ISACA.

Honing your financial analyst skill set will bring you other rewards, of course. The Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance gives you the latest starting salaries for financial analysts, whether they have one to three years of experience at a small or midsize company, or they're senior financial analysts. Those with professional certifications and graduate degrees can see offers higher than the national average.

Learn more about financial analyst salaries in a range of U.S. cities, and take a look at open positions in your area, too.