Blog Series 3: Partners of the Future: Are Accountancy Firms Nurturing the Right Skills to Build the Next Generation of Leaders?

There is no doubt that the accountancy profession is experiencing rapid change. Advancements in digital technology, increased regulation, globalisation, and the changing needs and expectations of clients are all combining to impact the profession in new and different ways.

These dramatic changes pose an interesting question around what skills and competencies will be required by leaders of accountancy firms in the future.  Against a backdrop of change, ambitious millennial accountants should stop and ask – am I building the right skills mix to succeed as a Partner of the future?

In a year-long study produced for the award-winning University of Strathclyde Business School MBA programme, Sandra McKinnon of Rutherford Cross found millennial accountants felt that current training and development programmes were unlikely to equip them with the skills required to lead in the future.  Drawing upon a global study conducted by ACCA in 2016 which surveyed 2000 professional accountants and 300 leaders across sectors in 19 countries, Rutherford Cross used a ‘Professional Quotient’ to assess this:

The Professional Quotient

(TEQ) Technical skills and ethics – meeting high standards of integrity, independence and scepticism
(IQ) Intelligence – thinking, reasoning, problem solving
(CQ) Creative – ability to make connections, explore possible outcomes and generate new ideas
(DQ) Digital – awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies and strategies
(EQ) Emotional Intelligence – ability to identify own and others emotions, harness and apply them to tasks and regulate and manage them
(VQ) Vision – anticipate future trends by extrapolating existing trends and facts
(XQ) Experience – understand customer expectations, meet outcomes and create value


The report highlighted that technical skills (TEQ) will still be core to success in the future but that millennials expect their area of specialism to be combined with knowledge of another discipline (such as IT or law).  As well as becoming multi-disciplined, millennials expected business awareness skills to become primary to allow commercial and risk-orientated client needs to be addressed.

On an interpersonal level, millennials expected that they would need to hone skills in influencing, collaboration, advocacy, and negotiation in order to interact effectively with stakeholders.  For example, translating data and disseminating legislation to a non-technical audience such as boards, investors, business managers, and the media was seen as a highly important skill of the future.

Both studies concluded that for the next generation of Partners, developing a balanced professional quotient (PQ) will be essential.  Seeking and gaining experiences across the seven quotients will assist in individual business case discussions and appraisal evidence enhancing career progression.

So, aspirant Partners – is it time to ask if you are building the right skills mix for success in the future?

We’d like you to get involved in the conversation. We’d like to know:

  • Do you aspire to be a Partner in practice?
  • Why are you or your peers choosing to leave the profession?
  • What skills do you think future leaders in the profession need?
  • Is the business model of Partnership attractive to you?

Join in the conversation at @RutherfordXNW using #nextgenleaders #shapingtheprofession #Partnersofthefuture

Sandra McKinnon is a specialist recruiter based in Manchester.  She has 13 years’ experience of recruiting practice accountants across the UK.   Sandra completed an academic MBA thesis at the University of Strathclyde in 2017 entitled “The Succession Planning Crisis in Regional Accountancy Firms” and she works professionally with individuals and firms to advise on career development and talent acquisition.

A full copy of the study is also available on request –  [email protected]

Next week in Blog Article 4 of this series we discuss whether the Partnership model itself is seen as flawed in the eyes of millennial accountants.