Clients expect accountants to have great organization skills and boast a high degree of precision, but there is more to being an exceptional practitioner than these two traits.
Professional accountants are often thought of as extremely precise, with keen eye for detail and vast amount of practical knowledge, and rightly so. If you make even a small mistake in this environment, it can have a huge impact on a client’s business.
Certainly, accounting books provide a basis for business decisions and measure the financial health of a company, so it's natural that accountants are expected to have great organization skills and boast a high degree of precision.
Below is a list of what I believe are the 10 key personality traits for a great accountant:
- Excellent organization. Accountants must keep up with all figures, data, and paperwork in their daily jobs. They need a system for quickly finding information they need. Accountants should be able to organize their work to maximize productivity and allow time for undisturbed research and analysis.
- Killer time management skills. Today, accountants are playing an increasingly important role in contributing to strategic decision-making, so their schedules are full to the brim. They need to take care of many tasks beyond financial management and should be able to prioritize them to make the most from their time at work.
- Attention to detail. These traits are obviously key in the daily reality of accountants who need to make sure that numbers work and are correct. An eye for details and due diligence for accuracy should be part of their modus operandi, not something they need to be reminded of.
- Focus on the client. Being an accountant means not only dealing with numbers, but with clients as well. That's why accountants should have a strong orientation toward meeting client requirements – they need to understand the industry, sector, and client in detail. Only this helps them to decide which accounting rules or economic measures could fit the business. An accountant's advice is always of value and knowing their way around a sector is the best way to make it more relevant and actionable.
- Creativity. That's right – great accountants have creative minds as well. They're the ones who practice out-of-the-box thinking to come up with fresh solutions – some client problems aren't textbook cases and require special attention and a degree of creativity.
- Commitment to the sector. Accountants should commit themselves to a particular industry and be passionate about it. This is what makes them attractive hires – companies are looking for individuals for long-term employment and stop at nothing to motivate such talented accountants to join in. That's probably because replacing an accountant costs a lot of time and effort, seriously affecting the productivity of employees during the dreadful transition period.
- Extreme trustworthiness. The kind of information accountants deal with every day is very confidential in nature. One of the most important features of great accountants is that they're professional and never impart any knowledge to third parties. This is the ethical way to conduct an accounting business, and having a reputation for trustworthiness can only help in scoring great jobs.
- Great communication skills. Needless to say, accountants must be able to communicate and collaborate with colleagues from different departments. They should also be able to communicate key insights to nonfinance staff – accountants can use various data visualizations form to aid their communication effort and ensure that their insights are properly understood. Communication is also key to developing successful relationships with clients.
- Collaboration. This is something not many professionals expect. We've all cherished the idea of a lonesome accountant busy number-crunching in a small cubicle – but this image is completely inaccurate. In fact, accountants work in teams and provide support to different departments – that's why they should be able to efficiently impart their expertise to clients and decision-makers. They should feel what others need to know and support the goals of the team, working with different kinds of professionals and personalities.
- Flexibility. Accountants who are able to embrace challenges and effectively respond to changes in working environments make up for very valuable members of any organization. In the digital age, offices change at an accelerated pace and accountants must be able to adapt and take advantage of those alterations. A high degree of agility is also necessary for responding to regulatory changes in the industry – only then they can provide quality service.
It's clear that being a great accountant requires a lot of effort, but also key personality traits that make up for a level-headed, creative, and detail-oriented individual – the highly successful accountant every company wants to hire.
Which traits do you feel a great accountant should have?
About the author:
Torri Myler is a project and HR manager at Bankopening, a UK-based bank branches directory service. She has a background in accounting and copywriting.