Sustainable growth The answer to the automation equation

By Ringside Talent Partners

June 12, 2024

Even though most accounting and finance professionals are concerned about the possibility of automation reducing the number of roles in their field, those identifying themselves as finance business partners are extremely optimistic about the future of the profession.

According to research by AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accounts, professionals who embrace how technology is moving the profession away from traditional, rules-based approaches and towards a value-creation mindset are better suited for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Those insights are among the key findings in Re-defining Finance for a Sustainable World, a white paper built on 18 months of AICPA & CIMA research that brings together the knowledge collected from 96 interviews, 92 roundtables, and a survey of more than 2,200 accounting and finance professionals.

“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, FCMA, CGMA, chief executive–Management Accounting at AICPA & CIMA, said in a news release. “As the demand for data-driven decision-making and sustainable business models accelerates, the demand for strategic value creating finance teams is set to grow.”

The global survey portion of the white paper found that 60% of accounting and finance professionals identify themselves as finance business partners. Sixty-seven per cent of those are concerned about technology reducing the roles available in the profession, but 92% who don’t consider themselves to be in a business-partnering role fear the same.

Even though the majority of survey respondents were concerned about the potential impact of automation, technology can have a freeing effect on prepared accounting and finance professionals. Despite the technology-related concerns, 84% of finance business partners remain extremely optimistic about the future of the profession; just 15% not currently in a business-partnering role felt the same.

Sustainability, according to the survey, is another area where increasing opportunities can lead to a brighter future for accounting and finance professionals:

  • 61% said ESG is becoming more important to their organisation’s business model.
  • 51% said it’s now routine for their organisation to access the impact of ESG and/or sustainability issues on their financial planning performance and prospects.
  • 50% said sustainability initiatives routinely affect business decisions.

“The impact of technology developments and sustainability considerations upon business mean that our profession is evolving in new directions at pace,” said lead author Rebecca McCaffry, FCMA, CGMA, an AICPA & CIMA associate technical director. “As trusted advisers, accounting and finance professionals at all levels will need to adapt to these changes, adopt multi-capital perspectives of value, and be prepared to partner beyond organisational boundaries. These are defining times for the profession, and our research will prove an invaluable resource for illuminating the way forward.”

AICPA & CIMA, through their global Future of Finance programme, 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.

Courtesy of Financial Management