For many finance professionals, Accounts Payable is not the most obvious choice of career path, often being overlooked by what's still sometimes seen as the more recognised finance, accounting or purchasing related positions. These areas also often provide a clearer direction in terms of professional development and career progression. And yet, the role performed by Accounts Payable professionals is a vital one - responsible for the administration and increasingly, the management of a company’s cash flow and financial transactions with suppliers, contractors, and sub-contractors. On top of that, 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 as individuals.
Some elements of accounts payable can be repetitive and transaction based, but Accounts Payable 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. Indeed, 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, analytical and reliable as well as also 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 often with the rest of the business.
What’s more, 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. Increasingly, organisations are moving towards a more unified P2P area, with 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 – and indeed of most careers in finance. Because almost every organisation, however large or small, 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 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