A special thanks to The Bottom Line, the official e-zine for students of Chartered Accountants Ireland, who recently featured this piece by Barden’s Managing Partner, Ed Heffernan. Here Ed assesses the future job market for accountants…
Lots of things are going to change when it comes to the future of work, but there are three things in particular that are going to have an incredible impact on the careers of accountants over the coming decade:
- Automation: Let’s park AI for now – that’s a little further down the road to make any meaningful impact in the medium term. Automation is here now; and it’s a game changer. Big 4 consulting teams in the areas of business process transformation are ramping up globally as companies, big and small, begin to heavily invest in automaton. In the not-too-distant future it’s not going to be good enough to be able to just do the debits and credits, its going to be come more about using the numbers to help the business make better decisions. The accounting profession will be filtered as a result into one of two routes: Project/Change Management roles overseeing the implementation and development of automations and Finance Business Partnering roles as the numbers that come out the other end of the automations will still need to be interpreted and explained to the business.
- Sustainability: Everyone knows that climate is going to take centre stage once the pandemic subsides. It will likely become the number 1 strategic priority for most product-based businesses (and many service-based ones too) in the form of their sustainability commitments. Companies like Kerry Group and Unilever have been doing this for years; now everyone is going to have to play their part. From redesigning supply chains to transforming from shareholder to stakeholder value orientations, companies will need finance professionals to play a key role in developing the financial models to achieve these new strategic priorities while ensuring the long-term viability of the businesses themselves. Accountants will play a key business partnering role in this evolution.
- Did someone say Data? Over the coming decade accountants will be faced with the reality that it’s not just about financial numbers anymore. It’s about both financial and non-financial numerical data and how they interact and impact each other. For the accountants of tomorrow, it is going to be about occupying this new space, where excel ends and where Power BI, Tableau and other tools begin. It’s going to be about making sense of large data sets, gleaning information from them, using that information to derive insights and using those insights to inform strategic and tactical decisions. Data runs through sustainability and is wed to automation. The accountants that invest in their analytics skills and make it their business to get experience in some of the emerging tools will be the ones that end up having the greatest impact.
If you’re going to qualify as an accountant over the coming year then your future is going to look very different to that of the last generation. It will be more about business and less about accruals, it’s going to be more about how financial and non-financial numerical data interact and less about statutory reporting, it’s going to be more about soft skills and less about consolidations.
For some this might be exciting, for others it might be intimidating. For all it’s a reality. For everyone it’s an opportunity.
“I’m about to qualify during a pandemic – what’s your best advice for doing the job search during this time?”
“Firstly, you’re one of the lucky ones. Most companies have by now implemented virtual hiring and on-boarding processes and the jobs market is back to about 80% of normal capacity – with the expectation that we will see a spike in demand as we head into Q3. This time last year it was a very different situation.
You have cause to be optimistic but that does not mean you should not be lax. The first thing I would advise is to get good advice early from someone that can be objective. Not your manager, not your partner, not your auntie and not you dad – they will all have good advice but none will have a holistic objective perspective of the future that could be out there for you. Get good advice from an expert recruiter (ideally one that is a qualified accountant like yourself) before you start looking for a job.
From there it’s about knowing what you don’t want to do and seeing what’s left. Getting the basics like your CV and LinkedIn profile right. Once you’ve these foundational steps complete you’ll be ready to get out there, start talking with people and starting to apply for jobs, directly or through 3rd parties.
Source: The Bottom Line March 2021