Aleks Popovich, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Financial and Distribution Services, explains the need to attract, develop, and retain future airline finance professionals.

Last month, IATA published a report on future employment requirements in the airline industry. The good news is that with air travel demand set to double over the next 20 years, a lot of new jobs will be created. The not so good news is that the industry faces significant challenges in filling those jobs with the right people.

In the finance side of the business, the issues are two-fold. In the first place, we’re competing for new hires with sectors of the economy that didn’t exist 25 years ago, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Second, the role of an airline finance professional is changing. It’s less about old-fashioned number crunching and transaction processing and more about being a value manager with a focus on areas such as payment, risk management, decision support, and data analytics.

The finance function plays an integral role in an airline's financial health. Hence the importance of creating High Performing Finance Organizations (HIPO) to support this.

And becoming a HIPO ultimately depends on attracting top finance talent to the airline organization—and keeping them there when the headhunters from Silicon Valley and Wall Street come calling. To do that we’re taking a multi-pronged approach that is focused around attracting candidates, developing, and retaining the airline’s existing finance talent pool.

The role of an airline finance professional is changing. It’s less about old-fashioned number crunching and more about being a value manager with a focus on areas such as risk management and data analytics

Under the guidance of the IATA Finance Committee (FinCom), we’ve launched an airline finance internship program with some leading universities around the globe that offers benefits to all parties.

So far, we’ve had 55 candidates apply for internships and seven airlines have committed to offer up to 26 intern positions, with three candidates already having been placed with an airline.

While we are excited about our progress, we have a 2018 target of attracting 20 airlines to provide internships for up to 50 candidates, so we welcome additional airlines into the program.

Turning to preparing the existing airline workforce to support the HIPO pillar, IATA Training, with the advice and guidance of the FinCom’s HIPO Working Group, is developing an ‘IATA Finance Academy’ curriculum of learning.

With a focus on creating value managers, we’re building the curriculum on subjects including Decision Support and Analytics; Airline Finance Transformation; Financial Risk Management; Aircraft Financing; and Cost Management.

Our target audience for the IATA Finance Academy is existing airline professionals who are in need of development as value managers. We expect that class registration will open at the World Financial Symposium (WFS) in September and courses will start being offered in 2019.

We also want to create a sustainable community in which finance professionals can share and exchange ideas and best practices. Forums include the Financial Community App (https://apple.co/2BRx49R), social media, and WFS. We are providing recognition to financial leaders through initiatives like the Best Industry Contributor Award, awarded at WFS.

By developing and recognizing the financial skillsets that are going to deliver the most value to airline leadership, we’re raising the profile of the airline finance function within the airline and creating the conditions and incentives to ensure we have the right finance workforce in the airline industry, today and in the future. We welcome your support!

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