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Accountancy opportunities

A changing accountancy profession creates greater challenges for employers, finds new research from ACCA
The recruitment, development and retention of finance professionals is a growing challenge for organisations because the accounting profession is changing rapidly, global research from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals today.
ACCA’s research report “A changing profession? The evolution of accounting roles, skills and career aspirations“, sought the opinions of more than 2,500 ACCA qualified accountants in 50 countries around the world.
The findings reveal a shifting profession, where new roles and skills are needed, and where the aspirations of accountants are becoming much more ambitious, particularly in emerging economies.
The report also confirms that more regulation and an increasingly complex business environment are changing accountants’ roles and skills, making their work much more technically demanding, but also making them strategically important to the performance of businesses.
These changes are compounded by a number of issues from perceived deficiencies in the softer skills held by many accountants – such as personal effectiveness and people skills; supply shortages into the profession, and a much more fluid marketplace for accountants’ services, resulting in recruitment, development and retention problems for many organisations employing accountants.
Jamie Lyon, Senior Manager at ACCA and author of the report, says: “From an individual’s perspective, this is a good time to be a qualified accountant. The career aspirations of finance professionals are growing, but as roles and skills are evolving in response to a changing business environment and increased regulation, it would appear organisations are struggling to find individuals with the skills required.
“Coupled with natural demographic shortages in certain markets such as Europe, parts of Asia and North America, and increased competition for candidates from external professions and sectors, these changes are creating a huge strain on the recruitment, development and retention processes of many organisations.”
Key findings reveal:

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Finance roles are changing – 82% of respondents agreed that the roles finance professionals were undertaking were becoming more strategic and 72% of respondents agreed that their own role was becoming more technically demanding.
A war for specialist talent will continue to develop – key areas of growth across both the corporate and public sector were identified as risk management and financial analysis. In public practice, tax, assurance and corporate finance services will continue to offer the most career opportunities.
There is a skills gap between the skills organisations need and those held by finance professionals – this deficit was most noticeable for the wider business skills many finance roles are requiring and is impacting on organisational competitiveness. Many finance professionals will need to develop improved capability in technical, business and management skills.
The demand for finance professionals will continue to grow – 83% of respondents agreed that increasing globalisation was increasing the demand for finance professionals across the world and 84% of respondents agreed that there would be a large increase in the demand for professionals in the future, particularly from emerging economies.
Accountants are more mobile with less employer loyalty, and careers will increasingly cross traditional borders inside and outside of the finance function – globally, half of the respondents believed it would be easy to obtain a finance role internationally and 45% agreed that they would like to pursue a career in another country at some point in the future. Seventy per cent of respondents agreed that international experience on their CVs was becoming increasingly important.
The pressure on organisational retention strategies is high – organisations have to adapt retention strategies accordingly based on effective career development. 85% of respondents cited career development opportunities as a critical factor for choosing their next role. Only 59% said salary was the main consideration.

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But what of the future? Based on the research findings, Jamie Lyon concludes: “Organisations need to ensure their development programmes manage carefully the career aspirations of accountants, as well as responding to the new skills needed by finance professionals. Effective succession planning and the development of a very strong employee proposition will also be critical. There will be more career opportunities for finance professionals and our research suggests nearly 40% of finance professionals expect their career to develop outside of the finance field. There will also be much more movement across national borders. Consequently, the retention of finance professionals will be a critical challenge for organisations to get right, particularly in the context of an increasingly international marketplace
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