Regular readers of this blog will know that the changing nature of the finance professional is a recurring theme.
As a profession, accounting has already undergone upheaval in the past two decades. Then, the work was mostly manual and involved pen and paper. Those tools have since given way to computers and spreadsheets. But what’s next for the finance function?
A recent report produced by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, offers some clues.
Technology features heavily in the report as a driver of change. One of the key findings is that accountants should learn to code. “This will help them ascertain the feasibility of the software that they have in mind and what can or cannot be done in a program/application,” the report said.
Other technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and sensing technology “may also have implications for accountants”. The report acknowledges their “immense” potential but notes that it will be some time before these technologies are ready to apply to an accountant’s work.
The report authors held interviews and focus group discussions with senior leaders, employers and young professionals. The latter group was very strong on the need for interpersonal skills.
Tomorrow’s accountant must be multi-disciplinary and will need to acquire and develop expertise in, or knowledge of, a very broad range of domains. The list includes areas as diverse as leadership, psychology, critical thinking, negotiation, creativity, predictive analytics, programming, economics, risk, project management, business writing, and persuasion.
“The ability of an accountant to continue to deploy these [technical] skills, amidst a fast-changing environment, through their interpersonal skills and enterprising approach, is the key to sustaining the accountancy profession.”
The report observes that today’s workplace is less hierarchical (and suggests that technology has helped to break down traditional organisational structured). With teamwork more highly valued, there’s more focus on multidisciplinary skills, a commercial mindset, and a strategic approach to problem-solving.
Respondents also mentioned traits such as intellectual curiosity, resilience, adaptability, professional scepticism and good emotional intelligence are “vital” for accountants to address challenges in today’s fast-changing business environment.
Do you agree? Will tomorrow’s accountant and the next generation of CFOs be more rounded individuals with a blend of technical and so-called ‘soft’ skills? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s continue the conversation.