- Adapability and staying curious are essential for accountants to remain competitive.
- Key challenges are keeping up with business models, new technologies, increasing regulation and legislation.
- Accountants and auditors can use technology for administration, so they can focus on strategy and adding value.
Issues keeping accountants and auditors awake at night with the increasing pace of change in the professions, adaptability is essential in order to maximise opportunities and remain competitive. In my experience, the current key challenges affecting accountants and auditors are the need to keep up with different business models, new technologies, and increasing regulation and legislative requirements impacting all parts of business.
(Pictured: Liz Stamford, General Manager, Audit & Insolvency Leader, Chartered Accountants ANZ)
The implications of these shifting business and regulatory environments on accountants’ work includes core issues, such as how to account for virtual transactions or partnership business models, and for auditors, how to audit in the absence of hard copy paper trails.
Accountants are tasked not only with working out how to incorporate these continual changes into their practices and their own businesses, but also with considering how they impact their clients, or those they do business with.
In addition, accountants face the challenge of recruiting and training staff at a time when young people are not necessarily looking for a long term career, and when accounting and auditing do not sound like the most exciting career prospects.
How does technology impact accountants and auditors?
Technology isn’t going away. It is not the future, it is now. Technology is a tool that when maximised helps achieve efficiencies, such as with administrative tasks, so that professionals have the opportunity to focus on more strategic areas of their roles and, in turn, add more value.
In audit, it used to be that technology, or in old parlance “CAAT”, was a separate test you did once-off to understand controls. Technology is now pervasive and embedded through all business activity and all work.
Technology is now pervasive and embedded through all business activity and all work. It’s no longer a specialist skill, it’s a core skill
Understanding different technologies is no longer a specialist skill, it’s a core skill. However, the pace of change is so rapid it can be difficult to continually learn new systems and software used by clients, and to assist the audit.
And it is not only about knowing what the technology does. The threat of cybercrime is ever changing and ever present. Accountants and auditors need to be aware of risks, new threats and control options. Keeping updated is important to be at the forefront of protecting clients and organisations. As with much in this space, accountants and auditors need to understand the business and operational impact of increased data usage, information storage on digital systems and the security protocols in place to restrict access.
With the increasing use of analytics helping to identify and monitor trends, as well as interpret activity, the accuracy and integrity of data must also be closely examined. If the accuracy of the original data hasn’t been checked, or there is no understanding of how the data has been generated, then the insights analytics provides are useless.
New mindset for the changing profession
The core CA mindset requires clear logical thought, analytical focus, judgement, evaluation and professional scepticism. These attributes remain as relevant today as ever, yet the pace of change requires a new skillset. Increased curiosity and agility are essential qualities, together with an understanding of how to leverage the exponential growth of data to add value to clients and organisations.
So what do accountants and auditors need to know to stay ahead? Apart from everything, the key is to stay curious and stay informed.
Liz Stamford spoke to Tina Wild, Chartered Accountants ANZ, Content Writer and Content Marketing Specaliast.