Accounts Payable as a career used to be treated as either a stepping stone, or overlooked in favour of what's sometimes seen as more more substantial roles in finance or accounting. These areas also tend to offer a more obvious direction in terms of professional development and career progression. These days the role performed by Accounts Payable professionals is more recognised as being a vital one - with an increasingly an important role in the management of a company’s cash flow and financial transactions with suppliers, contractors, and sub-contractors. On top of that, with the increase in technology and processes connecting the different areas of purchase to pay, it's a role where the ability to perform analysis of data is of growing importance. And it's no longer uncommon to have positions such as Directors of AP, or Global AP Director - opening up new and challenging opportunities for the business and individuals.
It's true that some elements of accounts payable can be repetitive and transaction based, but AP is a critical area of the business and the performance of individuals within that team can make a direct difference to a company’s bottom line. An efficient and effective accounts payable professional has the ability to make significant savings for their company as well as to affect its reputation with suppliers and other creditors.
The nature of the role means that an Accounts Payable professional has to be meticulous and analytical as well as also increasingly, having strong communication and interpersonal skills to cope with the considerable levels of interaction with suppliers as well as coordination with other members of the finance and procurement teams and become a partner with the rest of the business.
In today’s fast-moving business environment, particularly in the area of P2P technology, it also helps to have an AP team that is flexible and open and willing to take on and try new ideas. As organisations become more data driven, many are moving towards a more unified P2P department, with business partnering and shared and inter-related KPIs.
Matching your personal tastes with your career
It’s also worth pointing out one of the less obvious benefits of a career in AP. Because almost every organisation has a need for an AP function, it is often possible to work within a sector that interests you outside of your own role. For example, if you prefer to work in a non-for-profit environment, an AP career within the charity sector may appeal, while someone with an interest in the arts may choose to work in the theatre, film world or a museum.
Qualifications and experience
Accounts Payable is a very specific part of the Accounts department, so an AP professional may often begin their career in a more general accounting, or administrative role, developing into AP as he or she gains broader experience in that area.
In the UK there are currently three main accountancy qualifications:
• ACA (associate member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants)
• CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)
• ACCA (member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
In addition, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) allows people to study whilst working, offering practical training and qualifications in key accounting tasks and potentially leading towards Chartered Accountancy.
Accounts Payable and P2P Awards
Encourage your team to take part in the PPN annual awards, aimed at identifying professionals who are exceptional in their field and demonstrate commitment and innovation as well as a passion for teamwork