The future of accountancy has been a hot topic within the industry for some years now and was accelerated with the movement towards cloud-based software a while back.
The idea that robots (or automation/AI in today’s language) take people’s jobs is here to stay, no matter how irrational it might seem to some — and accountancy is not immune. In fact, some might say that the frequency of this topic is akin to an annual return.
The fear-mongering doesn’t stem from management, although it is undoubtedly felt in terms of lack of resources, but from the next generation of could-be accountants. “Is it worth training as an accountant when software can do an accountant’s job?” they ask themself, and regularly Google.
“Yes, yes”, accountant Partners shout — it is very much worth training as an accountant — otherwise, we wouldn’t be run off our feet.
The fact is, the evolution of accountancy in terms of software has just empowered accountants to walk a path they’ve trundled along forever — that of a strategic business adviser. Software and business intelligence + more knowledge and less time wasted = better decision making.
So, how has the conversation moved on?
Accountancy is a global affair, and on that basis, it’s interesting to hear the drums of evolution chatter coming from the other side of the world — that of Andrew Hunter, Chief Executive Officer, CPA Australia, in a recent post on the International Federation of Accountants’ website.
Andrew points to the following as issues:
- The challenge of attraction.
“The first challenge can be seen in the volume of data showing that fewer young people than historically has been the case are attracted at an early age to pursuing a career as an accountant.”
- The challenge of relevance.
“Increasingly, accountancy is facing a barrage of social memes that state, without clear evidence, that the robots will take the jobs, that the demand for accountants is diminishing (factually untrue), and that technical accounting skills are being automated.”
- The challenge of change.
“The third challenge, and probably the most “wicked” of them all, is that the new “skill economy” is placing a greater emphasis on workers requiring more granular credentials for skills that will need regular updating and replacing. That is, the initial education and certification of an accountant is no longer going to be sufficient to guarantee career-long employment.”
The answer, according to Andrew:
- Disaggregate “accounting” from the “accountant”.
The idea that the ‘accounting’ function is open to those within non-accountancy fields, such as business intelligence, and that accountants can then open the doors wider to strategic roles that are suited to their commercial acumen.
- Flip the model.
The acknowledgement that technical skills have become a small part of the wider skills that an accountant requires to become, what is, a business adviser — with acumen and soft skills essential. As is the ‘application of knowledge in context’.
- Open the borders.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect, to open accountancy up to those business intelligence experts to perform ‘accounting functions’ and consider broader qualifications for the role of ‘accountant’ while retaining essential technical skills.
Accountancy is thriving
Accountancy practices are thriving, and there are usually far more accountancy job adverts than accountants to fill them.
The most frustrating element is perhaps that the accountancy profession is one of the most nurturing — known for growing talent from within, with seasoned professionals happy to mentor budding new talent and full study support — in a time when the next generation struggles to get a step on the career ladder.
This growth in demand for accountancy support is because businesses need more advice in a world that doesn’t just move the goalposts — it changes the location on a monthly basis.
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