The most in-demand accounting specialty today? Having none at all

January 4, 2021

Published: Accountancy Europe

By: Florin Toma

In a year like no other, it is difficult to assess how the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis will affect us all. One thing is unquestionable: different trends from different directions are converging to create a future unlike anything we have ever imagined. Much like standing in front of a multiverse, we are uncertain of which one to choose.

In the most unpredictable situations, there is only one choice to make—the one that brings certainty. Businesses are striving to create resilience and plan all kinds of scenarios that need to include the workforce. One cannot consider discussing business resilience without including staff resilience.

“It all boils down to mindset”

My experience as an accountant taught me that being specialized in an area of the profession is an advantage to understand, and add value, to specific businesses. That approach has been made obsolete by technological progress, increasing business complexity and time pressure. It all boils down to something that, as an accountant in general (and a middle-aged one more specifically) can be difficult to grasp: mindset. Oddly enough, this might also be the key asset required in an ever-changing environment.

Resetting and redefining the accountant’s mindset while also leveraging their knowledge and experience are critical factors for success today. Having an open mind and being aware of externals factors and stakeholders are also crucial for accountant to adapt, and not without their difficulties.

The accountancy profession is a regulated, highly-interconnected profession that is changing fast to respond to businesses’ needs. But the accountant’s professional mindset is shaped by several agents.

The academic world: As the first agent in developing the future accountant, the pandemic has also taken the academic world by surprise, which needed to adapt to the new reality. Their response has been quick in some areas of the world, and less agile in others. Forging the next generation will require a deep analysis of the curriculum and of the way the knowledge is passed on. Integrating real-life, practical business experiences into courses would drive new requirements to be integrated fast and timely. The new generation already comes with completely different skills from their predecessors. Not leveraging them to their full potential, by keeping the same way of teaching and grading, would be a lost opportunity.

The professional accountancy organization: The professional accountancy organization (PAO) has always played a crucial role in the life of the accountants. Accountancy benefits from a strong foundation in ethics and integrity. Its advantage has always laid in the ability to integrate hard and soft skills to respond the business world requirements, either from the inside or from the outside of the business.

The pandemic strengthened the PAO’s role. More than ever professional accountants have turned to their organizations for help in supporting their clients and business on the short term. But building capacity and resilience is a long-term process.

A deep look into the PAO business model, delivery systems and interconnections with other disciplines is critical today in order to reskill, redefine and redeploy what is needed from the professional accountant. Technological advancements make this task more difficult as it allows other players to compete in the same space. The opportunity here lies in the ideal relationship between the profession and the business world. This bond should create the platform where input from businesses would allow the accountancy profession to predict shifts in demand, assess skills needed and drive the process by collaborating with incoming players.

The business itself shapes the accountant’s mindset. Coming prepared with the necessary skills and with a strong foundation in ethics and integrity, the accountant faces the reality of the profit-making business, with its practices, governance, policies and needs. Businesses strive to find the way to survive and succeed in the new “normal” environment. The professional accountant is a key player in this process.

All these players must be looked at as a whole, an interconnected chain, where each link defines and creates the strength of the next. The PAOs’ place in the middle of this chain is crucial. By design, they bridge the academic and business worlds and help their members respond in the best way possible to society’s needs.

In the end, mindset will be the most essential instrument that accountants can use. Many accounting specialties could be in-demand today. But for tomorrow, having none while being ready for any could be the best of them.

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