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The finance knowledge gap is a ‘grave concern’ for leaders

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read

The financial services sector is reportedly amid a significant knowledge gap. The consequences of this could severely impact the finance profession and put immense strain on organisations.

Currently, there are 37,428 accounting services businesses in Australia. This figure is expected to grow by 2 per cent year on year.

Concerningly, the number of accounting graduates has halved, resulting in a shortage of almost 10,000 annually, according to Thomas Palmer, managing director of Asia-Pacific at OneStream Software.


“From the CFO’s perspective, the decline in the number of finance graduates coupled with the looming retirement of experienced staff with critical institutional knowledge creates a gap that needs to be addressed by developing new, modern skills and harnessing emerging technologies to advance the modern finance function,” commented Palmer.

The consequences of this could cripple finance teams within organisations, a vital aspect of every business.

“Uncertain macro-economic times require CFOs to strategically [partner] with the business to steer direction, yet a lack of crucial solutions and skills is hindering the CFO and other finance leaders’ ability to keep up, let alone take on an expanded role to strategically steer the business,” Palmer explained.

“This frustration is spilling into finance teams who are forced to take on an increased workload as they navigate outdated and fragmented planning and reporting systems. Employees are feeling burnt out and growing increasingly dissatisfied in their jobs, remaining confined to traditional finance duties.”

He continued: “New technologies – especially AI – are modernising the finance function to alleviate some of this pressure. However, attracting, retaining and harnessing the skills of specialist data scientists can be slow, expensive and ultimately fail to translate data into strategic insights for CFOs who wish to collaborate with the business.”

Overcoming skills shortages has been front of mind for many leaders over the last couple of years. Similarly, the finance knowledge gap is quickly becoming a significant issue, prompting intervention from employers.

Palmer said: “Visionary leaders are looking at their options with a very pragmatic lens. They have started by identifying where they can remove process complexity out of their business, which frees up resources and costs. This then allows them to upskill their existing workforce on new technologies and skills, allowing the finance function to deliver more strategic insights rather than historical data reconciliation. Retraining can be achieved through collaboration with associations and universities to upskill finance employees on analytical, critical thinking and technology skills.”

“Nothing changes without bringing people with you, which means considering change management. The finance profession collectively needs a rebranding, and forward-thinking organisations are building a mission statement and vision that positions the finance team as a strategic advisor and innovator for the business. These innovative companies are using this elevated brand to help draw in young talent from both within and outside the company folds.”

The onus doesn’t just fall to leaders, however. Palmer has called upon education institutions and the government to encourage participation in this vital profession.

“Cooperation between universities, industry leaders and the government is key to overcoming the knowledge gap. By engaging in dialogue with industry leaders, universities with a finger of the pulse will be able to maintain an awareness of the current pain points in accounting and finance to identify where the specific knowledge gaps lie,” he outlined.

“This information can be used to update course content of traditional accounting and finance programs, ensuring material is relevant to the modern-day finance function. Offering additional specialised courses that provide flexible learning options for full-time employees will further assist businesses in upskilling their workforces. Additionally, universities should partner with finance organisations to offer certifications and hands-on training, allowing students to gain real-world experience and understanding.”

Palmer concluded: “Universities are placing pressure on the government to implement policy change that can help foster skills crucial to the nation’s social, economic and environmental challenges. Touched on in the Universities Accord’s 47 recommendations, cost remains a major deterrent for students opting for accounting and finance degrees. Universities should keep a watchful eye on the government’s response, with increased subsidies needed to attract young talent.”



Training is the process of enhancing a worker's knowledge and abilities to do a certain profession. It aims to enhance trainees' work behaviour and performance on the job.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.