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The Evolving Role of an Accountant

17 May 2018

Annita McGettigan

As a recruiter in the accountancy field, I’ve seen both the roles and performance expectations of accountants evolve over the years so that they have become a real commercial driver within their organisation. So it was incredibly fitting that last week’s Chartered Accountants conference in Kilkenny had “Evolve” as its theme.

There was a terrific line up of speakers at the Chartered Accountants Conference including Francesca McDonagh, Group Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland, Dr Daniel Susskind who rocketed through a thoroughly engaging presentation about the future of the accountancy profession and how technology can help evolve roles, Aidan McCullen of Flow Consulting Group who gave a riveting presentation about the principles of innovation as explained through rugby, Caroline Casey who was a real inspiration and Cathal Smyth of State Street who extolled the virtues of a regional location for organisations looking to set up in Ireland.

We also had a thought provoking panel discussion on leadership chaired by Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite that focused on inclusion in company culture, millennials, talent development and ethical leadership. The technical piece covered hot topics such as Brexit, new changes within Revenue and the ever looming deadline of GDPR. One of the hottest topics was millennials and how companies have to evolve their cultures and policies in order to attract and retain them as they will be the future leaders and drivers of the business.

As interesting and as entertaining as the conference was, it certainly drove home the point that the role of the accountant has changed and as such, accountancy professionals have to evolve with the times and the requirements of business environments. We’ve seen accountants become linchpins of their organisations and having a real impact on the decision making and strategy within the business. We’re increasingly noting the inclusion of “commercial acumen a necessity” in job specifications as companies are looking to get more from their finance and accounting teams. Technical accounting skills are also essential. Employers now are looking for specific IT systems experience as organisations move to cloud-based technology. Skills in data and modelling are vital as employers increasingly want people who can look at big sets of data and extract reports that add value to the business.

At the top level, a CFO’s remit now includes HR, IT and strategy. Because of this, they are now positioned front and centre for the majority of commercial decisions and for meaningful input into the overall company strategy. It also means that they need to keep up to date with ever changing legislation, regulations and updates in technology that affect their roles.

Never has the evolving role of the accountant been so obvious than in my own speciality; that of temporary and contract accountancy recruitment. There is such a growing demand for experienced finance professionals to go into an organisation on a contract / interim management basis for specific assignments. With the economy growing but still facing Brexit uncertainty, businesses are engaging contract staff or interim managers with specific skills in a range of areas including corporate finance, financial management and strategy who can hit the ground running and make a real difference in their relatively short time with the company.

The good thing is that companies are increasingly recognising the importance of their finance teams, placing clear value on their commercial input and how they can make real contributions to both the success and the future of the business going forward.

Thanks to Chartered Accountants Ireland for organising a really insightful and entertaining conference.