Blog Series 3 of ‘The end of ‘Gestapo’ accounting’ concluded on an interesting note: welcoming you all to the beginning of the end of traditional accounting. Whimsical stuff, many, mainly traditional accountants, will say. We have shown in the last three series of this blog that something is broken in the accountant’s profession.
The CEO’s are asking for much more than they are currently getting from their CFO’s. They want their CFO’s to shift to new and higher ground in the organisational eco-system and become agiler when engaging at the strategic level. Even the high-priests of accounting, the BIG4 auditing firms, have noticed the need for new skills amongst their rank and file.
Other members of the global accountants high-priesthood are still searching for answers to the right ‘skills toolbox’ for their rank and file – their future leaders. At least they are aware that something is broken and are exploring means to address the failings.
A glimpse of the would be ‘new’ accountants ’skills-toolbox’ – views from outside:
‘The CFO of the future is finding success by going “soft” – getting out of spreadsheets and spending more time thinking about strategy, people, and culture.
Over just the past few years, CFOs in vanguard organizations have become strategic leaders. Rather than merely supporting the company’s operations, CFOs and their teams are working directly with department heads and business units to make the strategic choices that drive the best returns on investment, enhance shareholder value and long-term growth, and beat the competition.
This shift requires the modern CFO to collaborate actively with all parts of the business and untangle questions such as: What is our unique value proposition? What is our market potential in each business in which we participate? How can we increase value to the customer? Do we have the capabilities needed to win?
Given these new collaboration and management responsibilities, the CFO’s old education and career track are no longer ideal preparation for the modern version of the job.
The hard quantitative skills that a typical CPA or MBA candidate studies are now table stakes; more strategic abilities and soft skills are increasingly critical.
Today’s CFO must be able to develop talent, build a strong team and shape a winning culture, via influencing and collaboration skills vs. via command & control. The CFO must also ensure that the organization culture is aligned with the company’s path to creating value – else all their financial and business plans risk failure.
Rather than focus purely on financial outcomes, we are finding that today’s chief financial officers are most valuable when they pay attention to three important areas: understanding the value chain, shaping the culture and developing talent.’’
Traditional University accounting education won’t deliver the new ‘skills toolbox’ – KPMG’s revolution:
‘KPMG’s highly conventional audit division has broken a 100-year tradition and hired 42 graduates without a business or accounting degree in an attempt to enhance soft-skills and diversity in the division. It is a massive expansion of a radical experiment trialled for the first time last year. It coincides with new corporate reporting rules that will thrust audit teams further into the public spotlight, and as boundaries between disciplines in professional services blur. “This is very different for us,” KPMG head of audit Duncan McLennan said.’’
Wrong recruitment strategy – it’s not about academic achievement after all – EY’s wake-up call:
‘One of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters is to remove degree classification from the entry criteria for its hiring programmes, having found “no evidence” that success at university was correlated with achievement in professional qualifications.
Accountancy firm Ernst and Young, known as EY, will no longer require students to have a 2:1 degree and the equivalent of three B grades at A-level to be considered for its graduate programmes.
Instead, the company will use numerical tests and online “strength” assessments to assess the potential of applicants.
Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent, said the changes would “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.’
We can no longer deny the need to change the ‘skills tool box’ of our accounting friends
So, if accountants have to change what they have to offer for skills, what should the change bring?
In the short-term, and to ably address the worsening skills crisis, accountants that are already in the profession, will do well:
- Focusing more on people than numbers
- Accountant employers and opinion leaders like the BIG4 should continue their efforts at re-engineering staff recruitment and selection process
However, the ultimate long term answer lies in educating all students a different way. We have been reading the book Educating-Ruby. The book is a call to arms, in the UK, to change the way students are taught at school. It calls for a 21Century approach to teaching, and in its ‘Dimensions and Challenges of a 21st Education Curriculum,’ may lie the answer to that elusive accountant skill/s:
Educating-Ruby puts a strong case for a balanced and RELEVANT education. A focus on learning than academic achievement (without learning). The latter may be the plague debilitating our accountant friends
It’s an education problem after-all: Answer – Dimensions + Challenges of a 21stC education curriculum
1. Knowledge management: We ought to balance conceptual and practical matters, and connect content to real-world experience
2. Skills management: We need to help students to develop high order skills: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration (4C’s)
3. Character building: Students should develop behaviours and values for a changing and challenging world: Adaptability, Persistence, Resilience, and Moral traits (Justice, Integrity, etc.thinking)
4. The Meta-layer: Learning how to learn, Interdisciplinary, as well as Thinking
If the orthodox accountant had been taught using the above 21stC framework, all current efforts at skills re-tooling, would not be required.
So, we now get to understand that: ‘Education is not the same as School.’
It is never too late to change!
We should indeed applaud the ongoing efforts by some of the accounting high-priests to change their lot