Finance professionals need to ‘tech-up’ in 3 years – Study

Dr. Noel Tagoe

A study released by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) indicates that most finance teams and professionals are not evolving their skills fast enough to account for the impact of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and other technologies.

Titled Re-inventing finance for a digital world, the study revealed that 61 percent of finance professionals surveyed expect over 20 percent of finance tasks to be automated in the next 3 years, and 55 percent have already seen a move toward ‘somewhat’ automated processes – yet hindsight reporting, for instance, still makes up 65 percent of a finance team’s report outputs.

The research findings and response complement additional research launched this month by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants – the unified voice of CIMA and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) – and Oracle, which found that 90% of finance teams do not currently have the skills to support digital transformation and their business’s ability to grow.

The majority (over 50 percent) of finance leaders globally say the competencies of their teams must ‘change significantly’ over the next three years as new technologies take over traditional tasks.

The upside: Businesses expect a stronger focus on value creation with the automation of repetitive tasks.

Expertise in areas such as data analytics, cyber risk management and business models will facilitate the shift. There will be need for a shift in mindset to constantly acquire new skills to deal with complexity and operating in an increasingly agile environment.

Over the course of 18 months, CIMA consulted finance professionals from over 2,000 public and private organisations of all sizes in 150 countries, including through face-to-face interviews, roundtables and a global survey.

The goal was to bring together different organisational views, to understand and build a composite picture of the role finance professionals play in business, identify competencies and skills employers expect, and map how these are changing in a digital world.

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, Chief Executive-Management Accounting said: “Technology is bringing us change at an unprecedented speed and scale. Organisations must constantly enhance their capabilities to seize new opportunities and remain viable.

“For finance professionals, it is no different. The changing environment represents a huge opportunity for them to go beyond their core technical comfort zone and embrace emerging technologies as a way to deliver value across their organisations. However, to rise to the challenge, they will need to hone new skills and competencies to stay employable and competent for a digital world.

“Building on our 100 years heritage of leading the management accounting profession, we are today launching an enhanced CIMA Professional Qualification, CGMA Competency Framework, and Digital Mindset continuing education course to give finance professionals, members and students the tools and resources they need to thrive in this digital age. We will – as we always have done – help finance professionals reach their full potential.”

Paul Aninakwah CIMA Ghana-Management Accounting, emphasised: “The speed of change within the finance function means that organisations must continually review and enhance their capabilities to stay ahead. To meet the challenges presented by a changing finance function, and remain employable in a rapidly evolving industry, individuals will need to gain new skills and adopt a growth mindset. This applies as much to the finance sector as it does to any other professional sector”.

Dr. Noel Tagoe, Executive Vice-President-Management Accounting Research and Curriculum, delivered a lecture to CIMA members in Accra at the report’s launch, and noted that changes in the business world are fast-paced and characterised by unpredictable disruption.

Speaking exclusively to the B&FT, Dr. Tagoe gave practical examples of disruption to businesses through the use of technological innovations, and said once the taxi business was quite viable until Uber came along with an enhanced service delivery system to disrupt its activities.

“Smartphones are doing so many things we did not anticipate; the automation of human services means some services will be displaced – which means organisations and individuals, and even countries, will have to adjust to be relevant.”

People should then decide what machines do best, such as repetitive exercises, and what humans do best to achieve the perfect blend and achieve optimal results.