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Ready for the fourth industrial revolution?

PQ dropped into the ICAEW HE conference to hear how the future might look for today’s trainee accountants

March 2018

The factory of the future will have just one human and one dog in it. The human is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to stop the human interfering with the machinery!
That’s the tongue-in-cheek story EY’s managing partner for Talent, Maggie Stillwell, told when opening her talk on the future relationship between robots and accountants.
Stillwell revealed that the robots are already ‘plugged in’ at her firm. It has around 400 robots for clients and 270 working for the firm’s employees. That’s nearly 700 up and running.
Using tools such as its Capital Allowance Asset Review Tool (Caart) makes PQs’ lives very different today. A job that used to take 15 hours to do now takes three seconds. More tools like this are coming, too!
Currently, EY takes on 1,600 students a year, and Stillwell admitted people are the firm’s biggest cost and greatest asset. Embracing AI will, she said, mean that EY’s full-time numbers won’t grow as fast as they have in the past 15 years (it currently has 65,000 FTEs). The type of employees EY needs is also changing (see below).
The upside to all this could be a downward pressure on the average age of partners. It was suggested last year that it could fall to as low as 27-30. Stillwell said that currently 40 is more likely to be the age of becoming a partner, but she wasn’t ruling out that dropping dramatically.
She said there were five key personas that describe the talent EY need today and tomorrow.
So, what are one of these five are you?
Side Hustlers: Portfolio workers who split their time working for EY with another job, project or learning experience – whether that’s to upskill, start another career or create their own business.
Hummingbirds: Workers with specialist skills and experience who have earned the freedom to choose their ‘gigs’ and see companies as partners/vendors, rather than employers.
Climbers: Permanent people who want rapid career progression and expect to put in the hard graft to get there. However, they still want greater control over where and when they work.
Balance seekers: Permanent people of all ages who wants the benefits of a permanent job but might be looking to reduce their hours or gain more control over when, where and how they work.
Rotators: Experienced employees who like to continually take on new projects and challenges to keep work interesting, but don’t aspire to become senior leaders.

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