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Future Finance

The recent London South Bank University / PQ Magazine conference - entitled 'The Dark Side of Accounting' - includes a number of fascinating sessions on the future of the profession. Here we focus on Peter Simons' presentation o digital technologies' impact on accountancy

January 2019

The world of work is transforming at pace and we could be forgiven for failing to keep up. Technology, demographic shifts, market upheaval and evolving customer expectations are impacting business models and forcing organisations to rethink how they operate. Standing still isn’t an option – businesses need to adapt and finance professionals need to redefine their roles.
In the digital age, the finance function is being given a mandate to go beyond its core accounting role and become more influential, acting as a guardian of the business model and an enabler of value maximisation for stakeholders.
As technology takes over more routine accounting processes, finance professionals must step up to the plate and make sure they have the mindset and skills needed to succeed.
After all, this change calls for a move from being a technical function, focused on financial reporting and budget control, to a more commercial one working with colleagues across the business to apply the discipline of management accounting to decision-making and performance management.
The finance function has a unique end-to-end view of an organisation as every business activity has a financial consequence, and management accounting already provides a suitable performance management framework.
So how can finance functions adapt? They need to complement the technical skills and rigour they use to produce accounts and analysis with the influencing skills and acumen needed to develop solutions.
There is an inherent challenge in shifting from core accounting being your central focus to a foundation to add value, moving from producing answers to asking questions. Finance professionals will need to broaden their skills and be recognised for questioning constructively, guiding strategic decision-making, partnering with peers, managing risks and implementing projects, as well as providing trusted management information.
Finance professionals have been seen as technical experts, but they now need to become commercially minded problem-solvers who handle ambiguity and speak the language of their business fluently. And they will need enhanced commercial and social skills to collaborate effectively with colleagues from diverse disciplines and external stakeholders. In fact, they need to become adaptive learners constantly acquiring new skills.
They need to learn, unlearn and relearn. This highlights the importance of lifelong learning and continuing professional development in the quest to find out what we don’t (yet) know.
Our Future of Finance research – which included more than 300 interviews and 50 roundtable events with organisations across the world, as well as a global survey of nearly 5,000 finance professionals – can provide some guidance. Businesses must use technology to release the full capacity of its finance professionals. They must widen the remit of finance to cover a broader range of management information, generating new insights and business solutions. And they must provide and empower finance professionals with new skills to create and preserve value.
So how can you – and your employers – define which technical, business, people and leadership skills are needed? This is why we have created the CGMA Competency Framework, a tool designed to help finance professionals and employers understand the knowledge requirements and assess the skills needed for both individual and business success.
Management accountants have a comprehensive view of their organisations’ finances and operations, which is why they will play a critical role developing their strategy in the digital age. To fully seize this opportunity, however, they need to fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Future of Finance research papers are authored by Peter Simons and Dr Martin Farrar, Associate Technical Director, Research and Development – Management Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Further insight is available at https://tinyurl.com/y7fycon9 PQ


• Peter Simons in Associate Technical Director of Research – Management Accounting at the AICPA

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