Accounts payable skills and responsibilities
by Jamie Radford
If you are considering embarking on a career as an Accounts Payable professional, it is essential to make sure that you have a full understanding of the key skills and responsibilities required. Let us take a closer look:
Accounts Payable responsibilities
As an Accounts Payable professional, you will have similar responsibilities to a junior accountant. This includes:
Producing financial records
One of the primary responsibilities of an Accounts Payable professional is producing, managing, and creating financial records. These records are essential to a business's financial health, as well as tracking all payments and cash flow to suppliers and vendors.
If a business needs to demonstrate proof of making a payment or they are facing an audit, it will depend on the financial records created by the Accounts Payable clerk. The board or executive team in the business can then review these records as they track their success.
Checking numbers for accuracy
Accounts Payable professionals are also responsible for making sure that all of the information kept in financial records are up-to-date and accurate. Keeping a detailed record of these numbers can help accounting teams create accurate reports to be reviewed by businesses.
Most Accounts Payable professionals spend a portion of their time reviewing data for accuracy to streamline business operations and keep errors at a minimum.
Managing the company's financial transactions is another key function of accounts payable professionals. Making payments on time is one of the main ways businesses can maintain positive relationships with suppliers and vendors, so it is essential to ensure that this is a priority.
Recording transactions on time and accurately will ensure that the business can make accurate financial projections based on their thorough file of payments. It also ensures that any expenses claimed by the business are maximised and any tax obligations are reduced.
There are several skills Accounts Payable staff need to develop to be successful in their careers. These include:
Great communication skills are essential for accounts payable professionals as you will need to communicate with people in other departments in your company and fellow members of your team. Effective communication is key to collaborating on tasks with other employees and establishing correct record-keeping procedures.
When working with fellow accounting professionals, executives and clients, Accounts Payable staff should be able to request items and listen and respond in a professional manner. Being able to communicate via email, over the phone or in person can ensure that information is communicated quickly and effectively in a timely manner while maintaining positive relationships with colleagues.
While the primary focus of procurement professionals will be negotiating with suppliers, in smaller businesses their accounting department may carry out the same tasks as the procurement department.
If you are able to negotiate with vendors effectively, your career as an AP professional will be much more successful. This negotiation does not necessarily entail landing the best deal for a product, but it could involve negotiating better payment terms or early payment discounts.
As an Accounts Payable professional, you'll be required to deal with a large amount of documentation, so it is crucial for you to be able to prioritise your workload and organise everything effectively.
While digital systems may seem like a solution as they eliminate a paper trail, they still require a certain level of organisation. For example, if someone sends a supplier invoice, it will need to be scanned from a printed document or uploaded onto the system. Keeping vendor files organised is key to locating information quickly and completing tasks in a timely manner, whether that is providing clerical support or processing invoices.
Specific times of the year are particularly stressful for Accounts Payable staff including the end of the tax season and fiscal year. So, it is essential to stay organised during these times.
Knowledge of accounts payable principles
If you do not possess a broad knowledge of accounts payable principles, it will be difficult to succeed in an AP position. If you are unfamiliar with purchase orders, vendor invoices and any other step of the accounts payable process, you will struggle to handle your duties.
Many businesses in the UK are choosing to use automated accounts payable processes to reduce invoice processing time. However, having a thorough understanding of the basic principles of the practice is essential to avoid problems in the future if the business experiences an issue with automation and human intervention is required.
Sense of personal responsibility
Taking personal responsibility for your role is required in most industries, but it is especially important within accounts payable. Each staff member is responsible for handling their workload and for playing their role to achieve company goals. If any accounts payable tasks are ignored, it could have a detrimental effect on the entire team.
While many practical accounts payable skills can be acquired in university via a bachelor's or associate degree program, some accounts payable professionals start their careers without higher education.
Ability to understand new software
New accounting software and programs continue to appear as the technology improves and the industry grows. So, if you are able to learn about new technology easily, this will put you in a good position to succeed in your career. You will be dealing with a wealth of historical records and financial information, so being able to get to grips with new software will make your daily tasks more manageable.
Join our community
AP Association are passionate about helping our industry advance your careers in the Accounts Payable profession, we have spent many years building our business and helping our community grow. We pride ourselves in giving you a platform to voice your opinions, give advice and test and comment on new technologies, we couldn't do this without you!
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