In the first in a series of blogs which will aim to keep you up to date with the key messages and changes, we caught up with them after to find out what the key messages from the day were:
1) The future will be driven by a digital agenda
A common theme through all the sessions was the profound impact that data, technology and digitalisation will continue to have on finance functions and those working within them.
Whether that is the automation of data-entry or repetitive tasks, managing and drawing insight from large volumes of real-time data or creating business models for services and propositions that have never been seen before it is safe to say that the industry will need to be agile and responsive.
It was also noted that ignorance is no defence when it comes to new technologies. As Jason Windsor, CFO Aviva, outlined “[finance professionals] need to understand technology, not just manage spend but think about the functionality it offers, what value this adds and how that value can be measured”.
2) Accountants must seek to develop transferable skills and life-long learning is a requirement not an option
When discussing the impact that these changes will have on individuals, the conversation focused on the skills required to be successful in the modern workplace.
It is important that accountants focus on developing transferable skills such as analytical and critical thinking, change and project management and leadership.
This will not be at the expense of technical expertise but there was an acknowledge that technical expertise alone was no longer enough. Finance professionals must be able to advise, influence and make an impact across a business. Noel Taego, Executive VP AICPA, summarised this well by explaining that finance professionals must move from “navigator to co-pilot”
All speakers were quick to point out that the pace of change we are working within is unprecedented and therefore it is essential that everyone makes regular, and meaningful, investment in their own development.
3) The CIMA syllabus is evolving
The CIMA 2019 syllabus will put data and digital skills at the heart of the new competency framework. This is most notable in the Enterprise pillar which will see a real shift in focus to address the role of digitalisation and how it will impact business practices and models.
Whilst we will not see any radical overhaul of examination formats, we will syllabus changes throughout the qualification to bridge the skills gap between professional qualifications and the needs of employers.
We expect the new syllabus to be tested from November 2019 meaning that we have plenty of time to plan.
Whilst there was nothing ground breaking in what was being said, a 2017 World Economic Forum report placed accountancy clerks as number 2 and auditors at number 7 of the jobs most likely to be disrupted by new technology, it was pleasing to hear a strong message around skills and lifelong learning.
From an educational perspective this fits very well with the introduction of the new apprenticeship standards in England since 2017 with their focus on skills and behaviours. The ability to actually perform a task (e.g. drive a car) rather than have knowledge of a task (i.e. pass the driving theory test).
Whilst on the subject of skills, it is potentially an opportunity missed that the new syllabus didn’t introduce open books (or access to other digital devices) in the exam. In a world where everyone has knowledge at their fingertips, the ability to memorise information is seen as one of the skills that is less relevant to future work – we are testing skills of memory when we should be testing skills of collaboration and communication
What wasn’t covered, and is potentially the elephant in the room, is the impact on professional qualifications and institutes themselves of digital developments. To base a curriculum around technology that develops at an outstanding pace means that the concept of updating a syllabus every 4-5 years may become a thing of the past.
These are the challenges that CIMA themselves, and other traditional institutes around the world need to seek to resolve as the needs of our finance community change.