At Model Citizn we pride ourselves on working at the cutting edge of Excel based technology. In Sydney, August 2016 I was invited to hold a presentation to a group of professional financial modelers at the Modeloff Global Training Camp.
Reflecting back on the best financial modelling event in Australian history, there is a lot to be proud of.
For a start, organisations and people can collaborate in this amazing ecosystem of like-minded (some might think obsessed!) people.
Australia is fortunate to not only have the founders of Modeloff (the first global financial modelling competition) but a large collaborative group of passionate industry experts who are keen to see this global competitive edge grow long into the future.
If you are looking at ways to differentiate yourself, be more competitive and move ahead of your peers some of the information below might be worth investigating a little closer.
I have summarised my findings into 2 sections below:
1. Excel based technology changes
We can safely say that MS Excel is among the defining inventions of the 20th century and will become even more important in the 21st. Over the past 20 years I have noted a steady rise for the demand for financial modelling skills. The LinkedIn post I wrote about this trend a few months ago confirmed this view with over 1,000 views in a couple of weeks. Whilst there are new tools and tricks to learn, the art of influencing and advising on complex concepts is still a challenge, no matter how you slice and dice and display information…until now.
One of the biggest challenges that an analyst, corporate advisor, finance professional or financial modeller faces is the ability to convert their complex analysis into a dynamic two-way conversation that doesn't result in the following phrases;
“Can you do some more analysis on that?” or “What happens if you change X?” or “What other scenarios can you look at?”.
There is now software that is able to transform even the most complex concepts like treasury, liquidity, funding, financial markets volatility into a simple app that anyone can use and understand, not just the financial modeller.
This allows the presenter to tell a story, do the thinking up front, and then illustrate the results of that thinking as the conversation evolves in real time. The complex content is brought to life and made for “consumption”; this facilitates a discussion, idea generation, and accelerates comprehension. Stakeholders are ultimately more confident and comfortable with their decisions, and consensus is reached much more quickly than being “force fed” a series of one-dimensional PowerPoint slides (the bane of most meetings!).
Another challenge to developing and maintaining financial models is that they are often not scalable, partly because there is so much dependence on the financial modeller. These skills are so specialised that it’s difficult to find good modellers. The other issue being that organisations are also nervous to “fiddle” or change models built by the modeller. Few have the skills to understand or operate the models which creates a problem for both the modeller and the organisation. This leaves an opportunity in the market to bridge this gap and find some middle ground.
I see a good chance that this gap can be closed in the near future, thanks to tools being developed with the ability to transform complex models into interactive apps using software like Modeler which allows anyone to use a model on a tablet or touch screen laptops, or indeed as a presentation. An interesting video clip illustrates this.
In addition, it is also now possible to develop models on a scalable content management platform.
Think about how costly websites used to be as the webmaster/ web developer had to code in HTML. Now with websites like Wix, Wordpress and Squarespace it is possible for non-technical webmasters to build a website without any HTML coding experience.
Building a robust 3 way model is often fairly challenging if you don’t have the Accounting, Excel, and Business Acumen (there is a lot that can go wrong). Now it is possible to build 3 way financial models based on cloud accounting packages like Xero meaning that access to a robust model is now significantly easier.
Another example of improvements in the data space is the development of PowerBI. Tableau and Qlikview have attempted to remove the pain of manipulating large amounts of data into charts to gain the insight you need. Microsoft has recognised that previously large amounts of data was a challenge in Excel, so they have progressively developed PowerBI.
In summary technology changes that are adjacent to Excel or looking to enhance on some of Excel’s short comings are continuing to evolve and develop. There is no shortage of new tools to learn and if people and organisations want to remain competitive they should explore these new tools.
2. Online career based ecosystem for collaboration and mentoring for Accounting and Finance professionals
The Outperformer has developed the world’s first online career management platform for accounting and finance professionals. With members from all over the globe the platform has been developed to give accountants the tools and online community to be successful in their careers.
Being a great modeler is one thing, sharing your capabilities with others and showcasing your skills, networking with the ‘right’ people is a great way to access future career opportunities. The Outperformer offers three product areas as part of the membership:
1. Educate is a series of events delivered through live webinars to show you different career possibilities. These are delivered by some of the leading executives, CFO’s and subject matter experts from around the world and in most cases constitutes CPD hours.
2. Collaborate is a closed member only forum and is great way to promote your skills, answer questions for other members, post questions to solve your problems and gain access to a large bank of mentors.
3. Success is a selection of career management tools to help you define where you want to go and support you in the journey of getting there. Wherever that may be.
Investing in your career is so affordable at The Outperformer, for less than $1 per day you can surround yourself with the tools you need for ongoing success.
For the most part, the more analytical people of the world tend to be more introverted in nature. Whilst you may have superior technical skills, it is often hard to market your abilities without coming across as arrogant.
I wish we had these platforms when I was developing my career, now there is really no excuse!