Accountants and change – preparing for the future, by Sarah Hathaway, head of ACCA UK
ACCA is always innovating – especially with its Qualification and the support it offers its students.
What surprises many is that innovation is important for the accountancy profession, as it increasingly needs to adapt to its environment and the needs of business.
In a recent report from ACCA, called Drivers of Change, we identified the challenges, opportunities – and more importantly the threats the accountancy profession will face in the future.
Amongst respondents, the big picture external issues were clearly flagged as being important – concerns such as cyber-terror fears and fuel increases were prevalent. Because of this, respondents also said there was an increased need for accountants to take on a business partner role and have a broader skill set within companies. Many senior executives saw this as being critical to their future business plans.
Respondents also said that it was essential for accountants to have an amplified remit in the business world. On this, and many other future drivers for change, accountants and the senior executives they work with were all on the same page.
This means that the ACCA Qualification needs to meet these present and future demands. That is why ACCA has innovated to introduce a number of ‘firsts’ over the years.
These developments are made because ACCA believes that the accountancy profession needs a modern, relevant and up-to-date syllabus for it to thrive on the global stage, and to meet demand.
A recent report from global recruiter Randstad warned there is a potential future shortfall of finance professionals in London and the UK. So the demand is there for OpenTuition students to grasp. To meet this demand, it is important that the profession meets the changing needs and expectations of organisations, and not only to meet the needs of the number of accountants required.
ACCA’s innovative approach is not conducted in isolation. How we design, deliver and develop our qualifications is important – employers from the public and private sectors, in businesses large and small, regularly tell us what they need from the finance function or the wider accountancy profession. Their feedback helps ACCA and its partners develop complete finance professionals who understand all aspects of the profession and can deliver in the workplace.
Since its beginnings in 1904, ACCA has developed a number of ‘firsts’ for the profession, most recently with the sponsorship of a massive online open course (MOOC) from FutureLearn, in partnership with the University of Exeter. It is the first professional accountancy body to sponsor a MOOC on the social learning platform, leading to professional recognition.
As many of you know, ACCA also recently enhanced the computer-based assessment for papers F1 – Accountant in Business; F2 – Management Accountant and F3 – Financial Accounting. New task-based questions enable students to tackle practical problems in a computer environment, and are also available for ACCA’s Foundations Level exams, which are the stepping-stones onto the ACCA Qualification.
The most recent update we’ve introduced for students are practice tests – a brand new interactive study support resource, which will replicate the format of computer-based exams (CBEs) and help students identify strengths and weaknesses before you take an exam.
ACCA’s firsts also include:
- Introduction of on demand computer-based exams as early as 1998
- Using IFRS in exams since 1996 in recognition of growing convergence of accounting standards
- Introducing variant exams for tax and law in 20 countries
- From 2007, placing ethics at the centre of the qualification with a separate ethics module
- Examining integrated reporting <IR> throughout the professional Level exams, from December 2014
The whole point of these innovations is to ensure that ACCA, its students and members remain ahead of the game, that they are prepared for the challenges ahead – and that we ensure there are enough accountants for business’s needs on the global stage.
Going back to the Drivers of Change report, a key recommendation was for the profession to develop a curious, experimental and adaptable mindset. The report said that a critical success factor in an increasingly complex and fast-changing environment is building a ‘curious’ culture. This means nurturing an environment that is open to external ideas and in which participants are encouraged to forge a network of strong working relationships across the entire business ecosystem.
By making these drivers of change happen, the accountant can ensure they remain not only at the forefront of business strategy, but in the driving seat too. And that’s a truly innovative place to be and I know as ACCA students that this is where you aim to be.