AICPA white paper examines the future of accounting

A new white paper on redefining finance for a sustainable world was released last week by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

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The white paper elaborates on the changes going on in accounting and finance, as the industry is moving away from traditional rules-based approaches and towards a more inclusive, expansive, and value-creation mindset.

Among the key findings, the report revealed that 60 percent of accounting and finance professionals surveyed say they identify as finance business partners, and 84 percent of that group are extremely optimistic about the future of the profession.

Of the 40 percent who say they don’t identify as finance business partners, only 15 percent say they are optimistic about the future of the profession. This shows a clear divide between accounting and finance professionals who work as business partners and those who don’t.

There is also a split in attitudes toward automation with 92 percent of accounting and finance professionals in non-business partnering roles fearing being automated out of existence compared to 67 percent of those in business partnering roles.

“Our ‘Re-defining finance for a sustainable world’ white paper reveals that the strategic value of accounting and finance teams in business is getting stronger – and this is good news for our profession. Advances in AI, lessons from the COVID pandemic, and dealing with economic uncertainty mean that learning to understand operations, finance strategy and being able to business partner are now must-haves in the repertoire of skills for modern accounting and finance teams,” Andrew Harding, chief executive – management accounting at AICPA & CIMA, said.

The report also found that 61 percent of accounting and finance professionals say that ESG is becoming increasingly important to their organization’s business model. 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.

It also showed that since 2018, perceptions of the value finance professionals add to business have risen, in terms of cost efficiency (up 19 percent), analysis and insights (up 11 percent), reporting accuracy (up 9 percent), controllership and risk (up 7 percent), capital optimization (up 7 percent), and partnering and decision support (up 6 percent).

This paper is the latest iteration of the two organizations’ Future of Finance research program, which explores the future of the accounting and finance profession in the age of disruption. It seeks to define essential skills, competencies, and knowledge needed to succeed in an ever-changing business world.