Liz Fisher, journalist

It is often said that the accountancy profession and the ACCA Qualification open doors for a brilliant career – but sometimes the number of options on offer can be overwhelming. How can you be sure that the choices you make in your career will be right for you? And when the profession and business world are changing so quickly, how can you be confident that your skills will always take you in the right direction? A new report and online career tool from ACCA aim to provide answers for those questions.

Over recent years, ACCA has carried out extensive research into the forces shaping business, the profession and the role of professional accountants. Its latest landmark research is outlined in a new report, Professional accountants at the heart of sustainable organisations, which looks ahead to the next decade of work for finance professionals and the skills that are and will be most prized.

Roles are increasingly driven by data and technology, and draw on a broader skillset than those of the past

The report effectively reimagines the global skills framework for future and current ACCA members, replacing the current Competency Framework. It sets out the must-have capabilities for sustainable organisations – and finance professionals – in the future.

The findings have informed the creation of a new online tool, Career Navigator, which is designed to help members, students, educators and employers understand the core capabilities needed at different stages of a career journey, explore emerging career opportunities and access relevant learning.

Career zones

The report sets out four ‘career zones’ of future opportunity for accountants. These zones have emerged (and continue to evolve) as a result of 25 identified drivers of change – from the rise of protectionism and the impact of climate change to the trend towards hybrid working – that are shaping sustainable organisations. The report highlights job opportunities within each zone – roles that are increasingly multidisciplinary, more data and technology-driven, and draw on a broader skillset than the accountancy roles of the past.

  • Transformation driver. Roles will be generated by the need to create sustainable value through organisational change. Business and finance professionals will bring vision and transformational capabilities to organisations, helping them build back better, explore new opportunities and meet growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. Transformation driver opportunities will include educators to develop the pipeline of talent, professionals responsible for and working within the increasingly popular global business services model, and CFOs – a role that is rapidly expanding beyond its financial remit.
  • Enterprise analyst. Roles will emerge from sustainable business and finance professionals using their data and future-insight skills to help organisations create and protect value and improve the organisation’s understanding of the future. Enterprise analyst opportunities will include finance business partners, who provide the insight that drives commercial decisions, and treasury professionals, who are adding more value to organisations as funding models change.
  • Assurance provider. The traditional role of the external auditor is evolving to become more forward-looking and risk-based, and is being joined by new roles, including ESG assurers. The role of internal auditor has also gained greater importance since the pandemic, becoming essential to the credibility of the business and providing an impartial view of performance, risk and control.
  • Stakeholder reporter. This role involves reporting on performance externally in increasingly meaningful ways as stakeholder demands grow. Stakeholder reporter opportunities include a greater role for investor relations teams, which will become essential to building trust by articulating how the company’s business strategy links to its overall purpose; and public sector performance reporters, who will be critical in helping to rebuild economies and restore public finances.
Core capabilities

The report also highlights the core competencies that will be needed in the coming decade – competencies that underpin all the future roles identified in each career zone.

  • Collaboration. As economies evolve, collaboration is appearing in many different forms – in the transition to hybrid work, in emerging business models and public-private partnerships, cross-functional project-based teams and new digital tools and technologies.
  • Insight. Organisational insight – making decisions, deciding priorities and achieving timely results – drives competitive advantage and innovation, and improves service delivery.
  • Drive. Organisations are facing wide-ranging disruptive challenges, while individuals are navigating changing workplaces, job descriptions and career paths. Getting things done will require a powerful combination of individual resilience, attitude and motivation that can be summed up as personal drive.
  • Ethics. In a world where stakeholders are demanding increasing levels of transparency, the cornerstone of long-term value creation is ethics – acting in accordance with fundamental principles of professional and personal ethical behaviour.
  • Expertise. The functional expertise of professional accountants in their own particular field – from audit and assurance through to tax, corporate and business reporting and risk management – will ensure sustainable businesses are efficient, transparent, compliant, agile and responsive.
  • Digital. Digital skills are a cornerstone capability for the future and involve the proficient and ethical use of existing and emerging data technologies, capabilities, practices and strategies.
  • Sustainability. The application of integrated thinking and action will create, protect and communicate long-term value for the organisation, the environment and society. Sustainability capabilities will be essential to help organisations make longer-term decisions that take into consideration the inherent trade-offs.

As the report points out, professional accountants contribute to sustainable organisations in three distinct ways: they create value, protect value and report value. As the world strives to build back better and address complex global challenges, they will play an essential role.

Further information

Listen on demand to the webinar presenting the key findings of the research and a panel discussion.