Craig Vickery

Craig Vickery, head of ACCA Scotland on why digital technology is the biggest factor shaping the future of the finance profession, how robotics is already impacting and how the traditional role of accountant is changing.

The digital and tech agenda is arguably the biggest factor shaping the future of the finance profession and the future roles students and members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) will actually do. There are many different technologies impacting the profession: automation, robotics, cloud, cyber, social, AI and blockchain.

ACCA have identified through our own research that digital is a very necessary skill; it's one of our seven professional quotients for success alongside technical and ethical competencies, IQ, creativity, emotional intelligence, vision and experience.

Because it's such a significant area of interest, we've established a global digital research programme, which will include our latest research on machine learning, launched mid-April "Machine Learning - more science than fiction"

Craig Vickery

Thanks to our existing body of ground-breaking research, we deliver the relevant digital skills that are in demand by employers.

Much has been written about robots and tech taking over our jobs, from chefs to taxi drivers to yes, even accountants. Back in 2017, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England stated that up to 15 million of the current jobs in Britain could be automated over time.

For the profession, robotics has already made an impact with the introduction of robotic process automation or RPA. This is software that performs repetitive processes, able to interact with multiple applications, controlled by humans and is  a natural next-step in the evolution of finance transformation.

Importantly, it is not capable of building relationships, or replacing all systems and staff. But it is changing the traditional role of the accountant, providing a unique opportunity for the profession to move from being something of a score-keeper and caretaker to communicator and business partner. Technology is helping professional accountants to take a more strategic role in business decision making and risk management.

Accountants have always been early adopters of technology, using it to its best advantage.  Their role has changed and ACCA members are increasingly bringing the numbers out of the backroom to take an active role in strategic business decisions and identifying opportunities for growth. This extends to helping businesses manage and make effective use of analytics and big data.

This on-going technological revolution means we cannot be complacent. If the UK's Industrial Strategy is about growth and productivity across a wide range of sectors and specialisms, then people with the right skills and talent are needed to help with this growth. Accountancy has a role to play.

For ACCA, skills and talent are at the heart of this growth, so investment is needed in people alongside investment in things. Bridging skills gaps is a must.

Alongside this, and in an increasingly uncertain world, businesses need to be agile in the face of change. Our members have told us that a main priority for them and their business clients is the need to be more resilient in the face of change, of being able to move quickly and decisively.

This resilience is important for Scotland's private and public sectors. It's an issue raised in the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy, which says: 'A strong, vibrant and diverse economy is essential to our national prosperity and in creating the wealth to support high quality public services.'

The strategy's international focus shows how Scotland remains an outward looking nation. Scotland has a keen commitment to international trade, while also being open to new ideas. The accountancy profession has an essential role in economic development and international trade because it's the language of business all over the world. It binds the global market place together.

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