The Key Soft Skills for International Finance
In order to manage a company with foreign operations, a finance manager needs to rely on certain hard skills and knowledge about things like international trade, foreign currency regulations and hedging the additional risks. But in addition to these hard skills, what plays an even more important role are softer skills which allow a manager to more effectively engage with their foreign counterparts – be it customers, suppliers or investors.
While it may be easy for someone from Germany or the Netherlands to manage a business relationship in Western Europe, it’s an entirely different scenario if your company has operations in India or China. It is trickier to effectively engage with stakeholders in such countries where there is a significant deviation in terms of cultural practices as it applies to business. Such countries and others around the world usually have long standing traditions for building trust – a brief understanding of local customs and languages can go a long way here. Any on the ground experience will make you immensely valuable.
With an ever increasing share of global economic growth coming from developing countries, any business or finance managers who have the skills to operate effectively in these locations instantly become highly sought after. Even in the developed world, the ability to engage with clients or suppliers in their local language, with a keen understanding of their sensibilities derived from your own past experience, will make you much more effective at your job.
Another thing worth mentioning is that as you progress through your career into more senior responsibilities, many companies will require you to manage their business in multiple countries. To be considered for such leadership roles, any international experience will make you a lot more of an obvious choice.
The first and most important point is to remain open to opportunities that undoubtedly arise from time to time. The first opportunity to build some overseas experience might not be the one you want. For example, you might want to manage your company’s purchases sitting in Rio but an opportunity might open up for planning a new venture and getting the bank lines ready in Jakarta. Any opportunity for foreign exposure in your early career is to be immediately pounced upon. Even training opportunities abroad can give you enough of an understanding to make an effective pitch about your skills.
Foreign language skills
Another skill that will help is learning a foreign language. While this alone will not automatically qualify you for a foreign posting, it will undoubtedly make your case stronger. Some basic knowledge about international trade and finance, and a general understanding of capital movement, currency basics, hedging etc. will help expedite your journey to becoming an international finance rock star!
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