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Can A Finance Professional Easily Change Industries These Days?

Some professions are more or less locked into one or a limited few industries however finance professionals have traditionally been able to change between industries. This would especially be true in a time where the finance function was all about compliance and beancounting. However today the finance professionals need to be more and more business savvy and prove that they too can add value to the business. This of course requires much more in depth knowledge about the specific industry one is working in and would also make it more difficult to switch industries. Would be interesting to hear your perspective on it?

Answers

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I agree that finance professionals need to be more business savvy, etc.

Here's a personal testimony regarding my perspective: I was contacted personally by the director of human resources for a large public company nearly two years ago with an opportunity to interview for a derivatives accounting position. I declined even interviewing, perhaps that was a mistake, but here is why:

I felt that if I did get the position to be a derivatives accountant I would be limited to that position in my future employment opportunities. Since I stayed at my current employer I have been exposed to a lot more sides of the business. I have been able to get involved with the sales/use taxes, corporate taxes, tax planning, creating audit notes, preparing the financials to be audited, coordinate audits, research of other accounting/finance related aspects, the list goes on. Had I become a derivatives accountant, I feel it would have limited my capability of achieving my dream to become a controller and/or CFO.

I do think I am more business savvy because of my exposure to multiple facets of the organization, as well as working with other departments.

My perspective is to keep in mind opportunities that come knocking; some doors do not need to be opened if they have the potential to not help you achieve your goals.

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Yes, with the exception of extremely specialized and highly regulated industries (to echo Chris' point). You can usually find common ground among a multitude of businesses and articulate how any experience you currently have is relevant and transferable.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Accepting a finance professional outside of your industry is probably a bit of a risk, but not impossible. A very junior individual should be able to adopt easily to an industry change; while a senior individual should have the depth of knowledge to be successful. I have seen many resumes where people show their accomplishments that are very industry specific, and then question why another employer has no interest. It is down to branding and highlighting finance specific activities that are transferable. By the way, I changed from banking to legal services.

Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

As companies struggle today with "group think" leadership, that is, they keep hiring within the industry and continue what they've been doing and getting what they've been getting ... with the right positioning, switching industries can be done and done effectively.

If you attended my Proformative webinar last year, you heard me talk about the retail CFO who routinely gets calls from the health care industry from his Linkedin profile. He's not seeking those positions, but they love his multi-unit background DESPITE the fact that he has not a shred of health care experience. He brings a proven track record and a fresh perspective.

This is only one example. I have numerous clients who have been very successful making the transition out of one industry and into another. I don't know that it is "easily" done, but it sure can effectively be done.

Robert Honeyman
Title: CFO
Company: Advanced Predictive Analytics
(CFO, Advanced Predictive Analytics) |

There are two critical pieces to consider.

1. How senior are you? The more senior, the less cross-industry mobility.
2. What's the job market like? In a tight job market, employers must relax their selection criteria, lest the open position remain that way for a long time. In the current job market, employers have the luxury of being selective to the point of demanding candidates who represent a near perfect fit.

Then there's the question of being a generalist or a specialist. If you have spent a decade developing technical skills and understandings that are not likely to cross to many other industries, you will likely remain in that industry for the bulk of your career, absent some move designed to change the dynamics (getting an MBA, for example). But a generalist should be able to move fairly freely, assuming a decent economy and a junior-to-middle level position.

Robert Ewalt
Title: Exam Development Manager
Company: Institute of Certified Management Accoun..
(Exam Development Manager, Institute of Certified Management Accountants) |

I agree with the others. The thought processes behind the techniques in finance / accounting can be used everywhere. My career path includes banking -> home electronics -> wholesale -> retail -> college teaching -> professional certification, but always using the same thought processes, and learning new skills.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I believe so. Basic business sense is valuable across industries. Obviously, manufacturing versus service is more of a jump. On the flip side, commodity manufacturing is pretty similar.

Sandra Snashfold
Title: Interim CFO
Company: Winunited Ltd
(Interim CFO, Winunited Ltd) |

I personally have found it quite difficult to change sectors, but the key is your relationship with the recruiter. I always put my transferable skills on a cover letter, but some recruiters ignore these. I have an MBA, but this factor is often ignored too. Worst case scenario that I've also experienced is that the recruiter has no idea of the idiosyncrasies of the sector that you are coming from and so completely misreads your CV, for example any previous moves you have had forced upon you by company sale, merger, restructuring, shareholder disagreement or request for liquidation because of reputational issues or perhaps a need to leave because of an ethical dilemma are misread as you jumping around a lot.
The moral of the story is, don't give the ill informed or ill prepared recruiter an opportunity to reject you because of misunderstandings. If there are aspects of your CV which could be misread, highlight and explain them to the recruiter. Make the effort to meet the recruiter or choose one who will proactively look for roles on your behalf.

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