Date posted: 18/07/2019 5 min read

What skills do accountants of the future really need?

CAs looking to the future should add to their financial training with great communication and relationship-building skills.

In Brief

  • All qualified CAs have a solid base of finance knowledge, but as their career progresses they need to develop further skills.
  • Finance doesn’t work in a silo, so two critical skills required are collaboration and influence.
  • Collaboration skills help accountants gain information, and influencing skills enable them to achieve something with it.

Depending on your disposition, the question “What’s next?” can fill you with either joy or dread. Over the past year, I’ve asked more than 150 finance professionals this question. The conversation inevitably leads to a reflection on what skills people have, and what ones they need to work on to take the next step.

All chartered accountants have an excellent base in terms of their financial skills. But the skills CAs increasingly need as they progress their careers are quite different.

Technological literacy is critical, but the biggest gap in accountants’ skills seems to be the ability to influence people and organisations.

To illustrate the suite of skills CAs of the future need, I’ve borrowed a concept called the T-shaped skills diagram from the marketing industry. The original idea comes from an innovative branch of marketers known as growth hackers.

In the T-shaped skills model, as I’ve applied it to the accounting and finance profession, all foundation knowledge and skills provided by CA training are represented as forming a solid block. Then, as your career develops and your interests narrow, you develop a depth of knowledge in the new skill areas – such as data visualisation or project management.

But if you want to be a finance business partner or go out and start your own consulting gig, the two most critical skills required are collaboration and influence.

This is because finance shouldn’t work in a silo. A finance leader needs an ability to engage with stakeholders and information holders across a business.

Collaboration skills will help you gain financial and non-financial information, and influencing skills will enable you to achieve something with this intelligence.

“Technological literacy is critical, but the biggest gap in accountants’ skills seems to be the ability to influence people and organisations.”
David Boyar FCA

Tips to build your influence

  • Listen sincerely, with the intent to learn.
  • Ask deep questions.
  • Challenge assumptions and exercise professional scepticism.
  • Simplify the complex: Using data-visualisation tools to represent financial concepts is one easy way to communicate your insight.
  • Speak up: Leaders speak up and make sure their insights are heard.

CAs' skills growthFigure 1. CAs' skills growth. Click image to enlarge.

Read more:

What does the future accountant look like?

With increasing urgency for the accounting industry to re-skill & embrace new tech, CA Catalyst engaged David Boyar FCA to share his insights on how to survive & thrive in the changing accounting world. Watch the video series in My CA today.


Unleashed: Leveraging the CFO for innovation by Magnus Lind.

From CA Library