VIEWPOINT: ACCOUNTANTS OF THE FUTURE

How can you reinvent your field?

Many times in history, individuals or corporations have stood out because they thought outside the box and reinvented the way they approached and did something. This then marked a change in the entire industry or field, and so their names and stories have made history.

Take the high jump, for example. For many years, the high jump was predominantly performed using a scissor technique. Since there is a physical limit in the height that can be reached with this move, the performance of athletes plateaued. But then along came Dick Fosbury, who revolutionised the event.

After much experimentation and many failed attempts, he changed the game forever by testing and then introducing a unique ‘back-first’ technique. This method lowered the body’s centre of mass mid-jump – allowing him to literally reach new heights! His hard work, innovation and determination paid off, and he came home with the gold medal at the Summer Olympics of 1968. Now known as the Fosbury Flop, his technique has been adopted by almost all high jumpers today.

Stories like this always make me ponder what the field of chartered accountancy is like now, and how it could change in the future. It also makes me think, of course, how you or I can change it. I believe there is great potential for innovation in our industry.

Here are some thoughts I have on what skills and scenarios CAs of the future can expect:

  • Cloud accounting will dominate. Data will be storage-light and not difficult to access, as opposed to fixed databases on client premises.
  • Compliance work will be commoditised and done by supercomputers and AI engines.
  • The current models of ‘strong control’ management and hierarchical office-bound seniors are not what millennials want to sign up for. They are not interested in old-fashioned systems, equipment, offices and restrictions. Future CAs will be increasingly tech-savvy and are keen to progress faster than before.
  • Clients want value, not verification. CAs of the future will need to provide this.
  • CAs will have to be able to market and sell their personal and their business services – something that is not taught at most schools. Cloud computing will increase competition with offshore firms that could pitch for work themselves.
  • Strong emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills will be necessary to navigate and engage with clients. Again, the ability to communicate well and negotiate is generally not taught in business schools, so perhaps there needs to be a real shake up of how the syllabus of how accountants is taught.

As a profession of accountants, we will need to change and adapt. It’s best to start embracing changes now and continue to learn, grow and empower others.

Author:  Brett Tromp CA(SA) is CFO of  Discovery Health

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