What will the accountant of the future look like? Perhaps part IT engineer part maths genius part business expert. Or maybe an ‘ideas person’ first, accountant second, social media guru third. Or globe-trotting manager, financial analyst, sales lead. Or a computer.
One thing is certain, there will be more than ‘one’ future accountant, but what they will look like is harder to pinpoint.
If you’re looking to develop your skillset for the future, consider gaining a fluid, hybrid mixture of skills and experiences capable of making you adaptable to the incredibly fast-paced changes of the business world.
The ACCA Qualification is a great place to start. It will provide you with all the technical expertise required as a minimum by organisations. We’ll also provide a real-world focus to studies and exams, help develop your increasingly important soft skills, such as leadership and communication, and expose you to technological changes that you’ll face in the ever-more technologically advanced accounting profession.
Roles within accounting and finance
So, what are the roles you may be doing and the skills you’ll need to do them? Many of the roles are already being advertised, but they’re constantly evolving with business and technological innovations, so while a title may not change, the role will.
- commercial finance analyst
- finance business analyst
- financial analyst
- financial planning analyst
The impact of technology on accounting is big, very big. Many accounting tasks can now be performed by cloud-based software, which is constantly evolving and performing more and more tasks.
This means accounting professionals must acquire skills relating to managing software and knowing what to do with what it produces - data. For example:
- data analysis
- communicating data and financial information to management or clients
- being able to think strategically and commercially so you can support business plans
- looking for improvements in operating systems and processes
Managers and clients are expecting accountants to provide more than just the compliance work that a company must legally provide - statements, balance sheets, for example. They want information based on financial data they can use to improve business. Analytics can spot growing trends and risks. Being able to communicate data and ideas is a key skill for accountants now; by doing so you will gain client or management trust and become more than a ‘number cruncher’.
The 'cloud expert'
Roles are all accounting and finance roles - if not already, then soon.
Cloud power, importance and integration is increasing dramatically. It’s making businesses more efficient and streamlined. It provides access to you, clients or colleagues greater and richer information at any time of the day or night. Real-time insights into key performance indicators, not just relating to accounting but from across a business, are now at your fingertips. Again, means accountants are moving into roles that more actively provide valuable insight that can affect daily operations and future strategy - not just ‘number crunching’.
- finance transformation manager
- systems finance manager
- systems analyst
- finance project manager
And while financial analysis roles have been around for a while, they’re growing in importance. So too are jobs relating to transformation, especially around improving an organisation’s financial systems, which often means implementing new software that integrates business-wide functions that ultimately automate processes, but also connecting once disconnected functions, providing richer real-time information about an organisation’s performance.
The likelihood is that accountants will be expected to manage or support transformations, as these are the people who best understand compliance requirements, but also where efficiencies can be found and how connections can be made across an organisation.
The skills that makes you different
The specific skills you’ll need for future roles is also changing. While technical accounting knowledge will always be a must, it’s also increasingly a minimum requirement. You need to bring more to every role.
Below are a few of the skills that set you apart:
- Business partnering - working alongside or integrating with other departments of an organisation to achieve shared goals, find operating efficiencies or develop new products/projects.
- Compliance/regulatory know-how - since the global financial crisis, regulation has increased so companies need to be sure they’re working within the law.
- Tech savvy - being cloud, digital, social media and software literate is a very valuable skill these days. Stay up to date and bring new ideas to your workplace.
- Stakeholder management - explaining concepts and maintaining relationships at all levels of seniority, including clients.
- Communication - as above, accountants are less and less about number-crunching in a back office. They’re expected to communicate ideas and develop strong relationships across organisations.
- Leadership - always important, but especially so when involved with project work, perhaps related to transformation
- Commercial acumen - understanding a marketplace and having an eye on future growth trends.