ITB Summer Edition - Flipbook - Page 8
G E T S M A R T // A C C O U N T I N G S K I L L S
T H E R O L E O F A C C O U N TA N T S H AS B E E N E V O LV I N G , A N D T H E PA N D E M I C H AS
FAS T-T R A C K E D T H E P R O C E S S . AS T H E W O R L D E M B A R K S O N A L O N G J O U R N E Y O F
R E C O V E RY, B U S I N E S S E S A N D G O V E R N M E N T S W I L L L O O K T O A C C O U N TA N T S AS
T R U S T E D A D V I S E R S A N D P R O V I D E R S O F A D D E D VA L U E .
STORY SUSAN MULDOWNEY
Work in the
Future from the
the future of the
to CPA Australia’s
how to build
your skill set
8 ITB January 2021
Through each phase of challenge and uncertainty
that has defined the past year, accountants and
finance professionals have been pillars of strength
in their businesses and communities.
Recession, unemployment and high economic
uncertainty make for higher stakes than ever
before, and it is the number crunchers who are
best positioned to help the world navigate
choppy waters. In doing so, however, the scope of
work and breadth of an accountant’s responsibility
have widened considerably.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen not
only the importance of managing people, but also
managing and leading change during uncertain and
turbulent times,” says Loretta Ross, senior manager,
professional development, at CPA Australia.
“Embracing, enabling and leading innovation
and transformational change will be important
for finance professionals to ensure the stability
of their organisations.”
David Cawley, regional director at Hays
Accountancy and Finance, believes the work of
accountants in helping their employers and clients
survive the crisis of the pandemic has proven the
value of reliable advice.
“We expect to see greater demand for accountants
who can offer more strategic insight and who possess
strong consulting skills,” Cawley says.
“In particular, demand within professional practice
will be for ‘second movers’ who have amassed a
suitable level of experience.
“This is due to the heightened focus on return
on investment and an increased reliance on
professional services for technical expertise
and advisory capabilities.
“As part of this, the ability to add value will
remain important, too. Now more than ever, an
accountant must be more than simply a traditional
DOING WHAT THE MACHINES CAN’T DO
In the era of automation, big data and blockchain,
there have been concerns around how to maintain
a relevant skill set, but Alain Boey FCPA is
optimistic that there are opportunities aplenty.
“In a post-COVID-19 world, technical accounting
knowledge will need to be complemented by digital
know-how,” says Boey, who is head of enterprise
data strategy at Petronas in Malaysia, and a
member of the Digital Transformation Committee of
CPA Australia’s Malaysia division.
“I believe accountants need to seek opportunities
that can be found within data. Analytical skills, and
the ability to share insights behind the numbers,
will become even more important – and it is
something that employers will come to expect.
“Providing strategic thinking behind the numbers
will be increasingly important in the future. It’s one
of the things that machines can’t do.”
Boey points out that machines are “very
structured, so accountants will also need to be
creative in how they interpret the numbers and their
relevance to the business. They will also need to be
creative in the way they present the numbers, so that
everyone can understand how the numbers impact
This view is underscored in Technology and the
Future of the Profession, a report published by
CPA Australia in association with the University
The report states that, at a broad level, “at the
outset of their careers accountants will be involved
to a greater degree in tasks requiring the exercise of
“The opportunities for young accountants
consequently require a broader and deeper
knowledge/skill base. While this means the roles will
be more demanding and challenging, the roles will
also be more interesting and rewarding.”
The report also points to the need for the
profession to adapt continually, as “the changes
brought about…demand that the business skills and
expertise of accountants will become even more
critical and valuable”.
Despite the rapid digital transformation that has
been taking place and machines taking over certain
aspects of an accountant’s role, Boey and Cawley
agree that this is not to say there will be less demand
for compliance work.
“Far from it,” Cawley says. “In particular, we expect
to see demand for experienced financial accountants
and payroll specialists with skills aligned to statutory
financial reporting, accounts payable, accounts
receivable, expense management and payroll
processing. We also expect to see high demand
within cash collection, data analysis and budgeting.”
Ross is confident that finance professionals will “need
to look to implementing digital solutions that create
new value for their organisation in an increasingly
complex and competitive business environment”.
“I think the most important skill or attribute for a
finance professional in a post-COVID-19 world will
be the ability to re-skill and adapt to changing
circumstances,” Ross says.
“Anticipating the future, understanding
opportunities and trends and adapting to new
situations will prove to be the leading advantage
for an accounting professional in the future.”
intheblack.com January 2021 9