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What changes can we expect in the finance and accounting landscape in 2019? We asked Chartered Accountants ANZ executives - Simon Hann, Group Executive Education and Learning; Geraldine Magarey, Thought Leadership & Research Leader; and Jeremy Rowe, General Manager Innovation - to share their predictions for the year ahead.
Don't rage against the machine
Change has long been part of the accounting profession, and in recent times we have seen more rapid change due to technology. These changes are predicted to continue in 2019, according to Geraldine Magarey. "The trends around technology we have been seeing will continue, with more of the 'talk' converting to action," she explains. "We will see increasing use of robotic process automation and AI start to be used more including in many accounting software packages."
In a world where technology is constantly evolving, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with the pace of new advancements. The trick, according to Jeremy Rowe, is for accountants to be adaptable. Don't rage against the machine - instead, embrace technology and reap its benefits.
Looking outward and exploring new and disruptive technologies is the best way to ascertain and identify tools that can better service the accounting industry. Chartered Accountants ANZ have partnered with innovation hubs Fishburners, Stone and Chalk, and in New Zealand, The Icehouse, to form CA Catalyst - a strategic programme aiming to help members build new skills, tools and connections, and unlock growth opportunities through collaboration.
Accountants shouldn't fear the "impending threat of automation". In fact, Simon Hann suggests that "in the context of automation, complexity and disruption to traditional roles in accounting, the skills of the future will help young accountants apply technical knowledge in a broad business context, providing value through communication, collaboration, decision making, judgement and agility to shift the perception from 'bean counter' to 'business partner'," he says.
"While technology will be very important for students and graduates don't forget what makes you 'you'. It is the human element which will still be vital for successful accountants."
Enrich your financial storytelling
Part of that shift in perception will come with accountants of the future focusing on and developing their soft skills. "There will be a strong focus on both technical and transferable, future-focused capabilities," Simon explains.
Jeremy suggests accountants enrich their financial storytelling. "Look forward and talk about the why and the how, as opposed to the what. Really speak to your client, be their friend, be their trusted advisor," he says.
With the rise of technology, digital engagement, globalisation, and continued interconnectedness between businesses and industries, accountants can stay ahead through knowledge of how technology can disrupt any industry and the methodologies to go about it. "Accountants work in every industry. They need to show an ability to work across industries and advise clients no matter where they are in the business landscape," Jeremy explains.
Jeremy believes that "by 2029 machine learning and artificial intelligence facilitating workflow automation, will be fully utilised and there will be little to no need for the accountant to be playing in that space. So there needs to be movement towards being a consultant and strategist, utilising the tools to be that figure for your clients."
Stand out from the pack
Being able to demonstrate transferable skills and not just technical accounting ability is becoming increasingly important for accountants, and can help them to differentiate themselves from the crowd when job seeking.
Jeremy recommends accountants put themselves in situations where they can upskill in these areas – be it through networking or attending industry events, volunteering, continuing professional development opportunities and mentoring programs. "With a changing world and a changing profession, being able to demonstrate these skills could set you up for success," Jeremy suggested.
Geraldine stresses the importance of being unique: "While technology will be very important for students and graduates don't forget what makes you 'you'. It is the human element which will still be vital for successful accountants."
"Communication, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability, agility, and of course resilience are the most important skills for the future. Ethics will be increasingly important in new areas of technology such as AI. It is not just about how you act, but think about what algorithms may be doing in an ethical context," Geraldine recommends.
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