Round table: finance, audit and management control professions
- Taher Hamza (TH)
Professor of Finance, Head of the Law, Finance and Control Department
- Étienne Valles (EV)
Performance management consultant at Viséo, EM Normandie graduate
- Nicolas Renée (NR)
Audit Project Manager at Talenz Audit, EM Normandie Graduate
- Marie-Anne Thérèse Didi-Kouko (MDK)
Management control consultant, EM Normandie Graduate
Can you introduce us to the finance professions?
TH : Before talking about professions, we need to link the fields of competence to the hiring targets. Among the fields, we have accounting, corporate finance, market finance, asset management, international finance... The fields of audit, finance and management control are extremely vast.
As far as targets are concerned, I see three: companies of all sizes, financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, brokers, etc.) and consulting professions.
What is performance management?
EV : I work with large groups in different countries. Anaplan is a planning solution. It allows you to plan and globalise everything related to reporting, controlling, accounting and corporate finance for a company.
It is a cloud-based solution. The servers are not physically present in the companies but are outsourced. This allows all the actors of the company to work anywhere in the world.
I act as an advisor to these companies. A team carries out a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) upstream and then the solution is integrated into the client's system. This is generally when I intervene.
Before installing the solution, the client expresses its needs in terms of reporting. Dior, for example, wants to know the turnover of each of its shops around the world. The solution resembles a large Excel table in which we create customised modules according to the client's needs.
How have finance jobs evolved in recent years?
TH : A lot has happened in ten years, even some quite spectacular things. Some aspects are historical. For example, the financialisation of the economy is a basic trend that dates back 20 to 25 years. Moreover, the succession of crises has strongly affected the financial sector. This has inevitably had an impact on finance.
Two more recent trends that have upset the finance business are, on the one hand, digitalisation (AI, Big Data, robotisation, Cloud...) and, on the other hand, the climate, environmental, CSR and ESG dimensions. There is a lot of talk about green finance, sustainable finance and ESG finance. On the job market, it is difficult to find professionals specialised in Green Finance.
What is green finance?
TH : These are all financing arrangements that are intended for investments of an ecological nature. This is done through traditional financial channels but also through the markets. Today, we call these investments that go through the market "green bonds". More and more companies in France and around the world are issuing very large amounts of green financing. This is a real underlying trend.
Why did you choose a career in finance?
EV : I chose both the finance sector and a job in digital. I am interested in the digitalisation of finance. It started with an internship at the end of my studies where I was doing acquisition audits of companies. It was an exciting job but also redundant. There were a lot of manual tasks and I wanted to automate them.
For my first job, I chose a job in a startup that was creating a tool to automate business acquisition audits. That's why I went into the digitalisation of finance.
TH: You see a lot of FinTech (Financial Technology) companies being created that offer the digitalisation of financial services. Some of these companies are then bought by banks. The digitalisation of financial processes and services in institutions is a very important underlying trend.
It is also necessary to build a bridge with the other financial professions and with all the digital developments that have taken on great importance in the financial sector.
Is there a typical profile for working in finance?
EV : Yes and no. First of all, when you come out of a business school, I think you are very well placed to work in this field. I think that you need to have an international outlook first of all. We work more and more with large groups established all over the world. We also use tools that are in English.
You also need to have good interpersonal skills because you create a fairly strong link with the client. You are both a consultant and a salesman because you try to sell additional products.
Is there a lot of relationship building in finance?
TH : At the level of administrative and financial management, a large team is managed. Team management and interpersonal relations are fundamental.
Furthermore, finance is a central pillar of a company. It is a department that communicates with all the other functions of the company. You need good communication skills.
What does an auditor do?
NR : Talking about the auditing profession is still quite general. I am lucky enough to have a degree in public accounting and auditing, which is quite atypical.
When we talk about statutory auditing, we often think of legal auditing. This consists of intervening each year in a company to carry out a legal audit of the accounts. This makes it possible to certify the company's accounts.
Statutory audit is indeed an important aspect of our work, but our missions have fundamentally changed. With digitalisation, we have a certain hybridisation of the profession. Everything is blending together.
Audit is very broad. We can also do contractual audits, tax compliance and internal control. We also work on transactions.
How does a business school course lead to becoming an auditor?
NR : Business schools provide a very generalist skill. And as this is a multi-faceted profession, the school gives us this macro view of companies. You have to understand the IT system, the management environment, strategy, accounting methods, the international environment, etc.
In business schools, we are prepared for all these missions. We are not trained in pure accounting science but rather in developing our soft skills. It is also essential to have good interpersonal skills, to understand your clients and to be able to adapt.
TH : I repeat that interpersonal relations are fundamental in all these professions in finance, audit and management control. In business school, we develop these soft skills to a greater extent than in a traditional course such as the DCG DSCG. This is a real added value.
Going to a business school and then completing a specialised accounting course really allows you to develop all these soft skills. This is a real strength and a real point of differentiation. When hiring, the Big 5 companies see this difference and prefer to hire someone who has gone through a business school.
How do you think the auditing profession will evolve in the coming years?
NR : Today we are confronted with the rise of data analysis. We can think of finance in terms of pure accounting, but this is no longer the case. From now on, we are much more interested in the origin of the data, the direction it takes and how it works.
A statutory auditor or an auditor will now analyse the data, which was not the case ten years ago. Today, we will understand the IT environment by analysing it. What is exciting is that in the future, we will focus on analysing the data which will allow us to identify risk elements through strategies. We will be doing much less administrative work and much more on a strategic approach.
TH : I still want to enhance the value of the classic finance jobs. This department is very close to the general management. It is common for the CFO to become the company's CEO. It's an exciting job because the CFO covers almost all areas of finance. The CFO has a central vision of the company.
There are also other classic jobs, but they are evolving. I'm thinking of cash management, bank relations and financial engineering. The latter is evolving enormously. Every day we hear about financial arrangements in the news.
There are also market trades, trading, brokerage, portfolio management, fund management and banking advice. All these jobs require good interpersonal skills.
We should not forget the job of financial analyst, which is a fabulous job. In the big investment banks and brokers, the financial analyst does strategy, sector analysis, strategic analysis and financial analysis. It is probably the most complete profile with this strategic aspect.
What courses are offered at EM Normandie?
TH : There are three Master's specialities which are "Audit and Finance", "Banking, Finance and FinTech" and "Financial Data Management".
The latter concerns the management of financial data. This data is analysed to help in financial and strategic decision-making. This is called "Data financial decision". Using data as a basis for decision-making has revolutionised the architecture of companies and will continue to do so in the years to come.
What advice would you give to a future EM Normandie student?
NR : I would tell them to be curious, to be willing to learn on a daily basis and to like numbers of course. I have been an auditor for over 10 years. I don't think I've ever had two days that were the same. Few jobs offer this and I find it extraordinary.
Going to a business school is not always the path expected by recruiters, but I would say that it is the royal road. You have to go ahead and believe in yourself. You grow every day in this field.
What does the job of management controller involve?
MDK : The management controller is like the 'policeman' of a company. He or she is appointed by senior management to ensure that the day-to-day running of the company is optimal. Their work helps to avoid waste, prevent fraud and secure the company's assets. The management controller reports regularly to the general management.
TH : It assesses performance at all levels of the company and across the entire value chain, across all areas and functions. He or she acts as a buffer between the top management and the middle management functions. It requires extremely strong qualifications to have this performance assessment capability.
MDK : Indeed, to evaluate this performance, you need to have dashboards. To do this, he or she evaluates all the organs of the company: purchasing, accounting, logistics, etc. You have to be able to understand the function, it is very versatile.
TH : This function is not always perceived at its true value. The management controller plays a major role in a company. He reports to management via the dashboards to enable the company to be as efficient as possible. They measure and evaluate the creation of value in a company.
MDK : There is often no hierarchical link between the financial director and the management controller, who is often attached to the general management. This allows the management controller to be independent in order to be able to evaluate each department.
In some companies, it is also possible for the financial director to act as the management controller.
Why did you choose a work-study programme?
MDK : I wanted to be immersed in a professional environment to confirm my plans to become a management controller. I already knew that I wanted to do this job because my older brother also does it. I heard him talk about his missions on a daily basis. I was naturally drawn to this field.
Furthermore, I wanted to be able to combine the acquisition of practical skills with theory. Work-linked training is the best way to succeed in this challenge.
TH : When the student goes out into the field, he or she faces problems and often finds himself or herself at a loss. It is at this point that they understand the importance of teaching in providing solutions for problem-solving and decision-making. They know their needs better once they are in the field.
MDK : When I started my work placement, my manager asked me to analyse GIS. We had not yet covered this concept in class. Shortly afterwards, we studied the intermediate management balances, the famous MIS! You are even more focused in class when you know that you need a specific concept to perform well in your job.
How will the job of management controller evolve?
MDK : In the years to come, the management controller will remain the central pillar for companies seeking performance. Nowadays, companies are evolving in a very competitive environment, especially with globalisation.
TH : There is also the financialisation of the economy, in which companies have to follow performance standards. They have to achieve an extremely high level of performance. The controller plays a major role in this performance.
MDK : This is not something that Artificial Intelligence can do, even if it can help the management controller to manage the data. There will always be a need for professionals in this sector.
In my previous job, I was both a management controller and an information systems controller. It is the IS department that provides the data that the management controller will analyse.
TH : The data may be massive or not, structured or not, in which case we provide different solutions. For example, there is an American bank that has 120 million customers. This is a real example of Big Data!
When the data is structured, there are processing tools that enable it to be better managed. When it is not, there are other possible tools. In some cases, we may have to use AI.
What advice would you give to future students?
MDK : To become a management controller, you must first and foremost like figures. You also need to be curious and open-minded, rigorous and methodical.
It is a job that also requires versatility and stamina. You often have to achieve objectives within a short timeframe.
From the time you start studying, I think you have to be seriously involved and determined in your courses. It's also good to get involved in the school's student life because it allows you to develop interpersonal skills and build a network.
As a management controller, you can work in all areas of a company. In order to better understand the purchasing sector, I had to contact other graduates who work in this field. This gave me a better understanding of the processes in companies. This is the strength of the EM Normandie network.
TH : For my part, I will talk about management control and finance. When people say that it is a job of figures and indicators, it is true. But the most important thing is the meaning and understanding that we give to these indicators. Finding meaning helps us to make decisions.
Today, all tasks without added value are outsourced. It is no longer necessary for employees to carry out repetitive tasks.
The field of finance is very broad but there is a common base of skills and quality to be had. First of all, analytical skills are fundamental. To be able to solve problems and make decisions, you also need to have a mental structure. The rationality found in finance helps to structure thinking. When you are structured, you can access all these finance jobs. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about Design Thinking.
I advise students to work on their analytical and problem-solving skills. You also need to have good working skills, a certain rigour and a structured way of thinking. English and computer skills are also a prerequisite.
All these skills and predispositions serve an ambition and allow for career development. The means to achieve this ambition are built up over time.