Is Big Data An Essential Skillset For Future Financial Professionals?

Is big data an essential skillset for those hoping to work in finance? It's definitely very important. Here's what you need to know.

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June 10, 2019
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I was recently at a networking group. One of the attendees was a tax accountant, who said that big data is changing their field in surprising ways. FM Magazine has talked about this trend in detail. Financial professionals need to understand the impact of big data and prepare accordingly.

How is Big Data Going to Influence the Financial Industry

FM Magazine breaks down some of the ways that data is changing the profession. They showed that 50% of the changes are due to transaction issues. However, auditing, controls and opportunity exploration are also changes big data has created for financial professionals.

Whether you’re thinking of becoming an accountant or planning to hire one, it’s well worth knowing which financial qualifications carry the most prestige.

For accountants-to-be, deciding which qualification to pursue can make a real difference to your potential earning power. They need to know which areas require the deepest level of data competencies before exploring a field. Investopedia has talked about the impact of big data on various sectors of the financial industry.

Here’s a quick run-down of the world’s most prestigious financial qualifications.

Data Qualifications of Different Fields in the Finance Sector

There are a number of financial professions being shaped by big data. Here are some of the most prominent.

CPA: Certified Public Accountant

The CPA is one of the most widely recognized financial certifications in the USA. It involves four exams, each of which is four hours long, and a huge amount of study. It’s not only taken by accountants, but also by tax preparers and financial analysts. In some states, the titles “accountant” and/or “auditor” can only be used by CPAs.

Big data plays an important role in this field, especially in the area of taxation. Tax auditors are increasingly using big data to identify underpayments. They use machine learning tools that make it harder than ever for people to evade taxes. As a result, CPAs need to rethink the way they advise clients that might be at a high risk of evasion.

Tip: If you’re looking at gaining a CPA yourself, check out this guide on CPAExamGuy.com for an overview of major CPA review courses.

CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst

The CFA is designed for investment managers and covers a broad range of topics related to financial analysis, investment management, and other areas of management. It’s a qualification often held by portfolio/fund managers and by research analysts.

CFAs are also relying heavily on big data. They use data in more varied ways than CPAs. They also need to use big data to find investment opportunities and ways to cut costs. New analytics tools have made this easier than ever.

Tip: The CFA program is available worldwide – there are CFA charter holders in more than 165 countries around the world.

Top UK Financial Qualifications

ACA: Associate Chartered Accountant

The ACA is the UK’s equivalent of the CPA, and is gained through the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). It involves a three-year training and development scheme and a number of exams. It’s available at two levels: certificate level and professional level.

Tip: The ACA is recognised by many countries, including EU member states, so with this qualification, you may be able to work internationally without needing to sit further exams.

CTA: Chartered Tax Adviser

This qualification is the highest level available for tax professionals and is provided by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). It requires the holder to pass entry exams, but also to have three years of relevant professional experience – handy if you’re keen to hire someone who’s already been tried and tested on the job.

Tip: CIOT and ICAEW have a joint program that allows students to achieve both the CTA and ACA qualifications at the same time.

Worldwide Financial Qualifications

CMA: Certified Management Accountant

The CMA is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in the US and is a two-part exam that must be passed within three years of registration. While it’s US-based, but the exam can be studied for and taken worldwide.

Tip: As well as passing exams, CMAs require two years or more of professional experience in a relevant field.

CGMA: Chartered Global Management Accountant

The UK’s CIMA (the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) offers the CGMA qualification in partnership with the US’s AICPA (the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). It’s not so prestigious as a CMA, as it hasn’t been around for so long, but it is quite a bit cheaper – both for the exam and the review course.

The UK office has new courses on big data, because they know these professionals will be heaviy affected by it.

Tip: If you’re hiring a CGMA, check when they received their certification. Prior to January 2015, members of AICPA were able to simply buy the qualification for a fee – without fulfilling any requirements or taking an exam. The exam doesn’t require data competencies, even those these are a more important part of the field.

Ultimately, qualifications are crucially important – but whether you’re an employer hiring a financial professional, or someone taking the exams yourself, remember that experience, attitude and even tech-savviness can make a huge difference too.

Big Data is Changing Finance

Machine learning and other forms of data technology are changing the financial profession in countless ways. Anybody going into the field must be aware of these changes and develop the data skill sets they need.