Starting your first job is stressful enough. Now add in the challenge of beginning your accounting career remotely, meeting colleagues and maybe your boss virtually, in an economic environment roiled by a pandemic and wild market gyrations.

In the understated words of Wes Bricker, PwC vice chair and assurance leader for the U.S. and Mexico, “an already milestone-level experience becomes inherently more complicated.”

While no accountant – or, for that matter, anyone just beginning their career – has ever faced a world like ours today, Bricker says in an article for Accounting Today that there are opportunities to make a difference.

“As a new accountant, setting yourself up for success amid uncertainty may seem like an uphill battle, but it’s really a pivotal opportunity,” he counsels.

Drawing on his own experiences, Bricker offers four “key guidelines” to help new accountants navigate today’s uncharted waters.

  1. Adopt a people-first mindset – Accounting, says Bricker, is a people-focused profession. “The importance of investing in the people around you and building strong relationships cannot be overlooked,” he writes. “Building strong relationships with all your stakeholders is paramount. Practice mutual respect with everyone at all times.”
  2. Seek out learning opportunities – Continue to learn, especially by being open to the help from senior accountants. “On-the-job counsel from others can teach you things you won’t be able to learn elsewhere.”
  3. Use technology to your advantage – Acknowledging that developing relationships remotely is not easy, Bricker says new accountants must use technology to do virtually what predecessors did in person. He counsels embracing technology to “make once time-consuming tasks faster and easier. Become an advocate for efficiency and lead by example.”
  4. Hold true to your purpose – “Respect the privilege and power of accounting. Honor commitments and deadlines. Have integrity. Be ethical. Tell the truth always. Practice objectivity and professional skepticism. Be a steward of accountability. Remember that trust is foundational to quality financial reporting; it underpins the entire financial ecosystem.”

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Accounting’s Use of Big Data Will Double This Year

Accountants have always dealt with data, but now their adoption of “Big Data” is set for a break out.

The Institute of Management Accountants says the accounting profession will double its use of big data, exceeding the implementation of other technologies such as data visualization and process automation. The IMA report — The Impact of Big Data on Finance Now and in the Future — foresees big data analytics having its greatest, initial impact in performance management. While this includes employee performance, analytics use will involve organizational processes, equipment and the like.

In the IMA survey, 100% of the responding organizations said they were already using big data analytics in performance management. Three-quarters were also sifting through reams of data to help in formulating business strategy.

“The increased emphasis on data provides an opportunity for finance and accounting professionals — who traditionally are proficient at pulling data from a variety of information systems, manipulating that data, and gleaning insights from it — to build on this core competency and assume a business partnering role with others in their organizations,” the authors of the study write in the report.

Specifically, the report authors say, “To stay relevant, finance professionals must take advantage of opportunities to create value around Big Data.” They identify three areas of focus:

  1. Data governance — Because of the profession’s rigor and discipline in managing confidential data, accountants are well positioned to take a leading role in the security and use of data.
  2. Insights into business trends and operations — With big data, accountants will “provide analysis to help business functions understand the financial implications of their activities or plans. They can help business functions improve the quality of information that goes into financial decision making.”
  3. Risk management — “Finance professionals can leverage the resource of Big Data to help organizations anticipate or preempt risks—and protect performance… By including diverse sets of data in their calculations, accountants and finance professionals can help better identify and mitigate the risks faced by their organizations.”

Before accounting and finance professionals can realize the full value of Big Data, concludes the report, “They will need to develop new skills, including enhanced abilities to organize, structure, and understand data sets; the ability to provide more in-depth, strategic analysis; and the ability to collaborate across the enterprise with other functional teams. Communication and interpersonal and leadership skills will also become even more important for accountants and finance professionals in the new silo-less, Big Data-generating corporate environment.”

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Jun 6, 2023

COVID Is Accelerating the CFO Evolution

Chief Financial Officers have been playing an ever greater role in business management and strategy since the title was first used in the 1960s.

The evolution of CFO from keeper of the records and reporter of numbers to strategist has been underway for years, accelerated by the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report on this evolution says the pandemic has expanded the role of CFOs as businesses struggle to maintain their equilibrium in the face of unprecedented changes. While CFOs believe their role is growing in significance, CEOs are even more certain.

The survey that forms a key part of the report by the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants found 72% of financial managers at all levels saying the CFO role will “increase or increase significantly” over the next few years. 82% of CEOs see that happening.

The pandemic, the survey respondents said, has had an impact on that evolution and on how it has altered their view of the role. Curiously, CFOs themselves see the effect as more modest compared to CEOs. Where just over a quarter of CFOs perceived the impact of COVID as changing their views of the CFO role completely or significantly, over 50% of CEOs said that.

Indeed, the survey participants said that for CEOs, leadership, strategic insight and ethics and trust are the most valued characteristics of CFOs. While the CFO respondents agreed these with the CEOs, they didn’t score them as high.They also saw characteristics such as customer centricity and global experience as much more valuable than did the CEOs.

In discussing the report with AccountingToday, IMA Vice President of Research and Policy Raef Lawson said that the survey and multiple roundtables with business leaders bears out the predictions made a decade ago about the changing role of financial leaders.

“We had predicted that the role of the CFO would be transitioning from financial reporting and stewardship to more of the strategic business partnership role, more engaged through external stakeholders. That’s all taken place. The interesting thing is that the pandemic seems to have just accelerated this change.”CFO of the Future chart.jpg

Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash