July 2024

There is a deep divide among accounting and finance professionals about the future of their profession, according to new research from AICPA & CIMA.

This divide is split between those who work as business partners and those who don’t.

Some 60% of accounting and finance professionals surveyed say they identify as finance business partners, and 84% of these are extremely optimistic about the future of the profession. Of the 40% who say they don’t identify as finance business partners, only 15% say they are optimistic about the future of accountancy.

There is also a split in attitudes to automation, with 92% of accounting and finance professionals in non- business partnering roles fearing being automated out of existence, compared with 67% of those in business partnering roles (which still seems quite high).

The AICPAs & CIMA newly released ‘Re-defining finance for a sustainable world’ white paper highlights that accounting and finance is unequivocally changing, moving away from traditional rules- based approaches and towards a more inclusive, expansive, value- creation mindset better suited for the challenges of today and tomorrow. Other key findings from the report include:

  • Three out of five (61%) accounting and finance professionals say that ESG is becoming increasingly important to their organisation’s business model.
  • Since 2018, perceptions of the value finance professionals add to business have risen; including cost efficiency (up 19%), analysis and insights (up 11%), reporting accuracy (up 9%), controllership and risk (up 7%), capital optimisation (up 7%), and partnering and decision support (up 6%).

Through its global Future of Finance programme, which first began before the pandemic, AICPA & CIMA also identified four key shifts redefining the future of the accounting and finance profession:

  • A clear evolution of the scope of finance roles within finance teams to embrace ESG and sustainability.
  • An acceleration in the adoption of technology to drive a shift from transactional processing by finance teams through automation.
  • A growing focus on value-adding creation to transform business models for long-term success.
  • A greater need for business partnering skills and the ability to use data and analytics combined with business acumen to improve strategic decision-making and drive business performance.

Lead author of the report, and AICPA & CIMA’s associate technical director, Rebecca McCaffry (pictured), said: “The impact of technology developments and sustainability considerations upon business mean that our profession is evolving in new directions at pace.

As trusted advisors, accounting and finance professionals at all levels will need to adapt to these changes, adopt multi-capital perspectives of value, and be prepared to partner beyond organisational boundaries.

These are defining times for the profession, and our research will prove an invaluable resource for illuminating the way forward.”

She added: “The broadening of the accounting and finance’s team scope of responsibilities is increasingly driven by ESG, both through new regulations being implemented in this space and growing demand for sustainable business models.

“While 61% of accounting and finance professionals believe that ESG is becoming more important to business models, the alignment between intent and practice remains elusive. AICPA & CIMA’s ‘Re-defining finance for a sustainable world’ white paper found that only 48% of accounting and finance professionals are currently measuring the impact of sustainable initiatives.”