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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Respecting Heritage, Embracing the Future

Guest Author

By Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA, President of the Charted Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

This year, the world’s largest body of management accountants, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) celebrates its 100th birthday.  

In 1919, a new breed of accountant was created to help industry leaders deal with the challenges of the early 20th century. One hundred years later, CIMA members and students can be found across 184 countries and at the cutting edge of finance, guiding decision makers and driving business transformation for the digital 21st century.

Looking back, looking forward

Over the past 100 years, businesses have undergone dramatic change. Technology is disrupting not only the products they offer, but also the way they earn profit, moving from the manufacturing of tangible goods to service-based business models and knowledge-related activities sold via licenses and subscriptions.

At the same time, technologies such as robotics and machine learning are taking over basic, routine functions and providing companies with more information and data on their markets, their customers, their suppliers and their own organisation. Throughout our history, we have been helping organisations and members successfully navigate these disruptive—and sometimes unsettling—times.

CIMA’s longevity and success is all about evolution, embracing change and remaining relevant.  Today, this manifests itself in partnerships with organisations such as Oracle to create cutting edge thought leadership for finance professionals, and in driving the accounting profession globally through our work with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to form The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), leading both the public and management accounting professions into the future.

Today and tomorrow

As we celebrate our great heritage, we are also embracing our future: A future in which new technologies are driving accelerating change in business. A future that will take us through the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. A future where disruption—of traditional businesses and business models—will be the new norm.

New research on the future of finance, Re-inventing finance for a digital world by CIMA and the Association, finds that a majority of the world’s finance leaders believe accounting competencies will need to change significantly over the next three years as businesses adapt to an unprecedented pace of technological innovation.

However, this new report also shows that most finance professionals are not growing their skillset fast enough to make up for the impact of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and other technologies. These finance professionals risk being left behind.

To stay ahead of the pack in the digital world, accountants will need to broaden their skills, go beyond their core technical knowledge, and be recognised for questioning constructively, guiding strategic decision-making, partnering with peers, managing risks and implementing projects, as well as providing reliable management information.

They will also need to enhance their social and commercial skills to better tell the story of the business, generate new insights and business solutions, and collaborate effectively with colleagues across their organisation and external stakeholders.

In our research, we found that 61 percent of finance professionals expected over 20 percent of finance tasks to be automated in the next three years; and over half (55 percent) have already seen some progress in automating processes. However, historic reporting currently makes up 65 percent of a finance team’s reporting output.

In the digital world, businesses increasingly expect their finance teams to shift their focus from corporate reporting and governance to value creation, strengthening their expertise in areas such as data analytics, cyber risk management and business models. There is a huge opportunity for finance professionals to step up—driving their organisation’s growth and leading them into the future.

Help is at hand

This year, we launched our enhanced CIMA Professional Qualification and CGMA Competency Framework to address new areas such as digital business models, cyber risks, data analytics tools, and emerging technologies. We are working to give finance professionals, members and students the tools and resources they need to thrive in this digital age.

We have also put a greater emphasis on developing a new mindset, so that finance professionals can readily adapt to new roles, learn new skills, and remain attractive to employers in a digital business world. We are helping finance successfully shift from being focused on compliance and governance to becoming value creators, able to harness the full power of technology.

These are challenging but exciting times for a profession willing to embrace new technologies and innovative techniques. Building on CIMA’s heritage and through the power of the Association, we are committed to continue to be at the leading edge of business and finance well beyond the next 100 years. 

Learn more about the future direction of finance. Download Agile Finance Unleashed: The Key Traits of Digital Finance Leaders.

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