INTHEBLACK August 2021 - Flipbook - Page 52
F E AT U R E
// C O M P L E X F I N A N C I A L I N F O R M AT I O N
helping them understand what the individual
financial levers and tools mean for the overall
performance of their business and for growth.
Lawrance speaks the “language of
production” rather than the language of
accountancy because her business model is to
be an extension of her clients’ business. She
writes the way she talks – informally – and
tries to approach client accounts in the same
way as they approach a creative project.
“We don’t want to come in with guns
blazing, saying ‘I’m the accountant and this
is how it is going to be’,” says Lawrance.
“Fundamentally, our clients are storytellers,
so what we try to do is to craft a story
with the numbers, and from an operational
and financial point of view we meet
Visual models and infographics help, says
Lawrance, but they are no substitute for
direct engagement, which comes from what
accountants say and how they say it.
COMPREHENSION IS KEY
Elizabeth Stratford FCPA works in a very
different role to Lawrance, but shares many
ideas about communication.
Stratford works in the public sector, as chief
financial officer at the New South Wales
Department of Communities and Justice,
where she says the key to communicating
financial concepts is to present them in the
context of service delivery and outcomes.
“When we are talking about budget
decisions, we try and link that back to what
the mandate is and the outcomes we have
been charged to deliver,” says Stratford.
“What I ask my team to do all the time is
look at something and then think about it
from the perspective of someone who has no
idea about what all those terms and acronyms
Stratford says that a major conduit for
better communication is the way her finance
team is structured, with business partnering
teams embedded directly with frontline
service delivery units.
These team members, she says, become
“interpreters” and her “eyes and ears” in a twoway discussion, which is both about finance
and operational issues.
52 ITB August 2021
“PEOPLE TALK ABOUT MATHS,
BUT IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS,
IT’S ABOUT COMPREHENSION.”
ELIZABETH STRATFORD FCPA, NEW SOUTH
WALES DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITIES AND
“C OMMUNICATION IS OFTEN WHAT
IS MISSING WITH ACCOUNTANTS. WE
OFTEN GET SO EXCITED ABOUT THE
NUMBERS, WE FORGET THAT THERE
ARE MANY PEOPLE...WHO ARE
FEARFUL OF NUMBERS.”
NICHOLAS MCGUIGAN CPA,
MONASH BUSINESS SCHOOL
Stratford acknowledges that she works
in an area full of jargon, both financial
and public sector, and makes a conscious
effort to recalibrate her communication
depending on the person or the audience
she is speaking with.
Unlike Lawrance, Stratford sees a difference
between her spoken and written language,
particularly when it comes to reporting.
“I wish I could say, hand over heart, that I
avoid jargon, but I feel I must slip back into
it sometimes, particularly when I am ‘talking
shop’,” says Stratford.
“Sometimes, even with some of our most
senior executives, they say, ‘Hang on a minute,
you’ve used that term, and we don’t know
what that means’, so it’s something I can be
guilty of even though I am conscious of it.”
So-called “soft skills”, says Stratford,
are now absolutely necessary for finance
professionals. Those who “rise to the top”
are the ones who can not only communicate,
but also pitch financial ideas that engage and
“People talk about maths, but it’s not about
the numbers, it’s about comprehension,” says
Back at Monash University, McGuigan
sees many reasons to be optimistic about
accountants’ communication skills, and they
are largely demographic.
As accountancy is changing, so are the
types of people who are attracted to the
profession, he says.
Developments in technology mean that
being an accountant is now less about arriving
at the numbers. More accountants entering
the profession also understand that good
communication is part of their required skill
set. They are more confident and comfortable
about explaining financial concepts “beyond the
“But there is still that stereotypical view of
accountants,” says McGuigan. “There is a view
that they look and act in a particular way, and
that stereotype is often used for humour and
poked fun at.
“I’m trying to break away from those
stereotypes and change the impression of
my accounting students created by their