How to Future-Proof your Career in the Evolving Finance Function

Rutherford Cross’ Harry Young  examines the steps CAs can take to stay ahead of the technology curve and future-proof their skills.  This article was first published on the ICAS website.

Future technology and the CA

The two main drivers of change in the wider financial landscape are legislation and technology. Right now, we live in a world where technology is advancing at an exponential rate. The traditional role of an accountant will continue to change and evolve in the coming years, and technology has a huge part to play in that.

The buzzword right now around long-term employment in accountancy and finance is future-proofing. As new technologies come into play there is a natural air of suspicion amongst some people that this may lead to redundancy. Whilst accountancy will change because of technological advances, accountants won’t become obsolete. They will, however, have more time and therefore be able to add value in other ways.

The changing role of accountants

An accountant’s role within a business in the future will be much more of a consultative/business partnering position. As technology embedded in the finance function becomes more sophisticated, time consuming tasks such as data entry will become increasingly automated, allowing accountants more time to analyse that data and draw conclusions. This will speed up human decision making and create more time to partner with other people within the business – resulting in the role being more ‘value-add’.

With better information becoming available quicker, a change in mindset will be needed to focus far more on analysis and prediction. Career paths in the profession will become more diverse and multi-faceted and working lives will evolve as technology blurs the work division between humans and machines.

How will change be driven?

As younger, tech savvier employees enter the workforce, the businesses and accountancy practices that don’t adopt and engage with innovative technologies could be left behind. While there does need to be upwards pressure from innovative and exciting young professionals to improve accounting processes, ultimately leadership teams should be championing change.

If you have these two approaches working together within an organisation it will remain ahead of the curve and be better prepared for the shift into the future of accountancy. With suitable training in place for new software, and new management processes implemented effectively, finance functions will improve.

Despite the role of an accountant changing significantly in the next 10 years, the key system will always be the person running it.

The future of the finance function

So, what will the finance function of a commercial business or an accountancy firm look like in 10 years?

First, within the finance function of a company, there will be far fewer people performing manual tasks. With increasing automation, labour resource will be freed up to do other tasks and processes are likely to be far more efficient. There will be more consultant-style roles, and, because of this, people will be at the heart of businesses more than ever.

Further insight suggests that within practice, accountants will have access to real-time client accounting information due to open banking being adopted on a mass scale, leading to lower risk of financial implosion as a business will have a much more accurate understanding of its financial health at any given moment.

Accountancy firms will also have to offer businesses more than just compliance; they will need to leverage value by taking on more advisory services and partnering with business in a more meaningful way. On top of this, as legislation increases, there will be a need for more frequent discussion between client and practice, further strengthening ties.

Some of these issues discussed might feel a long way away, but by considering what the future looks like now, you can begin to think about the skillset it would be wise to develop to future-proof your own career within accountancy. Soft skills developed by accountants in their early career will ultimately set them apart in the future.

In a wider business sense, the use of technology isn’t just about reducing costs as many fear, but more about how technology can be used to increase revenue and drive efficiencies. Understanding the value of technology to the business with which you work to understand it’s potential impact on the bottom line could make a real difference to your career.

Don’t fear the inevitable change that is coming; embrace it, make the mistakes, and learn. It’s how you will grow as professionals and as an industry.

For a confidential discussion about your career in finance, contact [email protected]