CHALLENGES FACED BY ACCOUNTANTS OF TODAY AND TOMORROW
This article on the challenges faced by accountants is a modern version a similar piece on the problems faced by accountants in the Google age that wrote some 7 years back. Then things were still relatively done in the business ecosystem.
CHANGE HAS COME
Things have really changed with all the mind blowing achievements that we have witnessed in the last few years in the area of business technologies like Blockchain, DevOps, Cloud accounting, agile programming, big data analytics, Fintech, IOT, etc.
Although the challenges faced by accountants then are still valid today, but with slightly different dimensions and perspectives. Unlike the previous article on challenges faced by accountants in the Google age which I functionally grouped, this piece will take a different approach that is more holistic in nature.
I employ a slightly tweaked PESTEL model for the purpose of looking at the problems and challenges faced by accountants.
The 7 pillars giving rise to the problems faced by accountants
- Regulatory (standards, compliance, New EU data protection rule, etc): The actors in regulatory ecosystem seem not to be getting tired with constant reviewing and amending things. The main challenge faced by accountants here is to find the time to keep up with all the new rules and regulations.
Yes, I agree with the fact that most professional bodies have already factored this in before deciding to introduce mandatory continuous professional developments, but, at the rate at which this thing is going, many chartered accountants will be struggling to keep up with all that there is to be abreast with.
- Expectation gap (accountants being perceived as super humans): I have been in many management meetings where others in the meeting expect me as an accountant to perform magic. But, will you blame them for being such expectant? In my opinion, the answer is NO.
These somewhat unrealistic expectations from the accountancy profession got to be accommodated by the profession if we are to remain relevant. Accountants have to be trusted business advisers and growth catalysts in the business world where the expectation goal posts for accountants are continually moved. I have worked in a place as an accountant where I was practically involved in everything going on in the business (though this was a SME, but that still does not make any difference).
Hybrid accountants are springing up every day to ensure that this expectation gap challenge is met. I am happy to be one of such hybrid accountant – wouldn’t you rather join me?
- Technologically (the fear of losing jobs to robotics, need to constantly be on toes): A friend of mine who is an ACCA chartered accountant often say that “the fear of technology is the bedrock of being successful as an accountant in this modern world”. He is 100% correct in this statement judging by how things are unfolding in the business ecosystem.
The challenge posed by technology to the accounting profession was unimaginable some years back. I am happy that accounting curricular developers have awoken from their years of deep slumber as we now have real technology content in the curriculum of both universities and professional bodies. For instance, coding and programming is now part of what accounting students learn while in school.
- Socio- cultural (corruption, reputation of the profession): scandals and accounting frauds are always in the news each and every day. People from other professions are always ready to attack the accounting profession with these ugly happenings. The role of accountants in fighting fraud should not be handled with kid’s gloves. All accounting hands must be on deck to face this challenge pound for pound. It should begin from in-house by discouraging accountants from stealing from their employers.
- Politically (pressure to advice politicians): politicians and politics being what it is (dirty – please excuse my choice of word) oftentimes pose serious pressure on accounting professionals to compromise on their ethical standings. Accountants face moral dilemmas on a daily basis in the hand s of politicians. It takes more than what was read from books while studying for ethics module in accounting courses to do the right thing when your employer is engaging in some unethical practices. Professional accounting bodies like ACCA are doing great job in ensuring that accounting ethics and business ethics are internalised into the subconscious of professional accountants.
- Legally (money laundry act, other national and international legalese): even for the lawyers, keeping up with the changes in the legal system is never easy. Accountants can only do their best to keep up with the absolutely necessary changes in law. My standard advice here is that accountants should seek legal counsel when in doubt.
- Investment (investors’ relationship, investment management and appraisal, risk management): investors and other stakeholders are constantly raising the bar when it comes to what they expect from their financial statements. The integrated reporting concept has finally been accepted as a welcomed step in the right direction in the attempts to solve the challenge of producing financial information in just the right quantity. There has also been an overhaul in the accounting information system all in a bid to ensure relevancy of financial statement.
Please note that the headings used to discuss the current problems and challenges facing accountants are not exhaustive. I only presented the challenges of accountants from my professional experience and personal biases.
To be relevant now and in the future as accountants, the right skill sets for accountants has to be continually sought. Let us all put on our integrated thinking red hot hat as we communally find solutions to the challenges faced by accountants.
I have no doubt that you enjoyed this piece, please let me hear from you.