Tips to enhance communication with nonfinance colleagues

The finance profession, with its unique combination of skills, certifications, and code of professional ethics, comes with its own intricate language. And herein lies a problem: communicating with nonfinance colleagues.

In some businesses, for example labour-intensive SMEs where senior management can tend to focus firmly on operational matters, leaders can sometimes lack financial awareness. There is a need to make the complex simple to support management better in its decision-making.

Here are our tips for explaining financial matters to nonfinance executives.

Go back to basics to explain concepts

Some people, even those in leadership roles, won’t “get” finance concepts such as accruals or deferred tax straight away. This is often due to the complexity of accounting reporting rules, language, and concepts, which can be intimidating.

Your job is to help them understand. If people don’t get it the first time, find a different way of explaining it until they do. A good approach is to take things back to basics by using household finances to explain concepts, such as clearing your more expensive credit card borrowing first before making overpayments on a low fixed-rate mortgage. Flowcharts and mind maps can be useful ways of visualising concepts.

Support managers’ priorities

Nonfinance managers don’t have the spare time to develop a deep understanding of finance. So, identify what matters to them and support their understanding of those concepts first. That might mean starting with factors affecting bonuses and long-term incentive plans, divisional performance, competitor benchmarking, or the differences between profit and cash flow. Better understanding of the financial concepts that matter to nonfinance managers increases their buy-in for transformation projects, budgeting, and long-term strategic planning processes.

Provide access to dashboard data

By developing Power BI dashboards that display KPIs and include the ability to drill down to operational-level data, accountants can make financial information more accessible to all. These steps help accountants build trust and break down any invisible barriers that may exist between income-generating operations and finance as a support function.

Consider where you can add value

Some of a finance leader’s greatest contributions can come from playing “devil’s advocate”, helping nonfinance managers avoid making expensive mistakes. Be a critical friend and don’t be afraid to challenge “ego projects”.

Recognising the priorities of our stakeholders has always been important when producing reports and evaluating projects, but using our communication skills to educate and advise helps build the trust and mutual understanding essential for effective teamwork. And by helping our colleagues understand and engage with finance activities, we free up our own time for value-adding activities. Ultimately, this helps to ensure that we are all better positioned to achieve business success.


Adapted from: “Tips to enhance communication with nonfinance colleagues”, by Rebecca McCaffry, FCMA, CGMA, associate technical director, Research & Development–Management Accounting at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, and Ian Brown-Lee, ACMA, CGMA, UKbased financial director with experience in sectors including real estate, construction, food manufacturing, and financial services, published on FM magazine on 05 October 2023.

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