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Future perfect

Karen Young explains on how PQs can ensure their skills stay relevant in a fast-changing profession

January 2017

The accountancy profession is changing quickly, as new technology and a drive for ever more commercially-focused accountants makes the role of a traditional back office accountant a distant memory. As part of the next generation of accountants it is important that you develop the skills to thrive in the future early in your career and continue to prioritise your own professional development to keep up with the changing needs of the industry.
In our new research published in the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2017 report, we found that nearly all (97%) of the PQs we surveyed felt they had the skills needed to fulfil their current role. However, only 77% of finance employers felt their organisations had the talent needed to achieve their objectives, indicating a mismatch in the profession between how capable PQs consider themselves to be, and employers’ confidence in their abilities.
With employers already reporting skill shortages and developments in technology and artificial intelligence reportedly threatening to replace some transactional finance functions, it’s important that the next generation of accountants hone their people skills in order to add value to businesses and remain relevant in the age of automation. Robots may have the potential to add speed and efficiency to the profession, but ultimately it will be human accountants who will add the commercial nous and insight that the smartest of robots cannot rival. Commercial awareness is perhaps the most crucial non-technical skill a PQ can have; finance leaders regularly tell us that commercial awareness is a critical skill for an organisation’s future. You can develop this by arming yourself with an understanding of how your organisation operates and how your role relates to overall business goals.
To prepare for innovation in the finance profession, today’s trainee accountants should proactively keep up-to-date with changing technology and its applications in their role. The new breed of accountant will be proficient in cloud computing. As the initial anxiety surrounding the security implications of storing vast amounts of financial data in the cloud is ironed out, more and more organisations will look to reap the many benefits of cloud computing. For accountants working in the cloud makes business sense as it allows for easy access to accounts whilst not being constrained to working in the office. Key thought leaders in the industry are also predicting the rise in the use of optical character recognition (OCR) technology, so PQs should also familiarise themselves with this technology, which turns images into readable and editable text. For tomorrow’s accountant this could mean the end of hand-entered receipts.
Accountants are no longer expected to quietly work through spreadsheets and it is those PQs with acute business acumen and who are ready to harness digital developments that will champion the future of accountancy.
For more information and job opportunities for PQs visit www.hays.co.uk/pq
• Karen Young, Director, Hays Accountancy and Finance

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