Finance and accounting roles within Professional Services firms have come a long way from the traditional tasks of manual bookkeeping.
Advances in technology have made many processes more efficient than ever and new innovations are shaking up working practices. Many tasks that were previously carried out by finance teams are now automated and there is a greater quantity and quality of data for analysis.
This rapid digital progression has already resulted in an unprecedented amount of change to the role of the finance professional and this is expected to continue as technology gets increasingly advanced.
So, what do these changes mean for the role of the accountant within Professional Services, and, more importantly, how can you future-proof your finance career as a finance professional?
New technology is automating basic accounting processes
The digitalisation of traditional accounting processes is on the rise.
Tools that currently enhance job functions may soon be able to perform them independently, and technology will be able to further improve the quality and quantity of data that companies can collect and track.
Furthermore, increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence, chatbots and machine learning could be used to automate many data processing aspects of accountancy.
Many finance professionals worry that technology will have a negative impact on their career prospects, with some worrying statistics being published, claiming that more than a quarter (25.9%) of chartered and certified accountants in England are at risk of losing their jobs to automation, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Technology can also lead to new opportunities
Technology can also have a positive effect on the accounting profession, helping finance professionals to save time on repetitive admin-heavy tasks, freeing up their time to focus on building relationships with clients and adding value.
With firms increasingly investing in technology, and better reporting tools continuously being implemented, this ultimately means that more data and information is now available to them.
As a result, more analytical finance roles are being created to help firms to better understand the business, opportunities for growth and profitability.
What skills will businesses require from accountants in the future?
Improved soft skills
As some of the more technical and traditional elements of accountancy have been made more accessible by automation, the soft skilled, non-automatable aspects have become more valued.
In the future, we are likely to see an increase in demand for roles requiring greater soft skills alongside an in-depth understanding of accounting, such as Commercial Managers, Analysts and Finance Business Partners.
Therefore, developing these soft skills now will significantly increase your future value as a finance and accounting professional in the years to come.
The ability to develop and improve business processes to drive efficiency and profit is incredibly valuable to companies. It is also an area which very much complements accountancy experience.
Financial analyst and commercial finance roles are on the rise and being able to combine a technical understanding of finance with experience of driving processes and transformation projects is an increasingly sought-after skill set.
With several firms already going through large systems upgrades and changes, we expect there to be demand for more Systems Accountants and for candidates with strong finance transformation backgrounds. In fact, we have already seen several firms begin hiring for these skillsets both on an a permanent and contract basis, with firms looking for hybrid skills across finance, tech and project management.
The ability to embrace change
Finally, as the potential for dramatic change moves closer, being ready to try new approaches, adapt to new technology and seek ways to improve is an essential mindset and a skill in itself.
How can Accountants future-proof their career?
Seek out learning opportunities
Education has always been important in the accounting profession, and with such rapid technological change on the horizon, it has never been more important to continually learn and update your skills.
Whether this be through pursuing formal qualifications or simply expanding your knowledge of processes within your own department, it’s important to be proactive AND constantly learn about better uses of technology, finding out best practices and how to get the most out of the latest software to drive and enhance the business you work for. This will really help you stand out from the competition.
Gathering a broad range of skills and experience also gives you the flexibility to shift wherever the industry heads.
Grow your network
Opening yourself to new professional opportunities starts by making good connections. Networking with other industry experts by attending round table events and keeping up to date with relevant trends will always be important. Networking regularly will also help hone your communication skills as well as enable you to share and gather information from your peers.