By Antje Derks
The Future of the Chartered Accountancy Profession in 2024
The Chartered Accountancy profession is heading for some big changes this year as emerging technologies and societal trends create new opportunities as well as disruptions. This article delves deeper into the key developments shaping the future of the profession.
Extensive Adoption of AI and Automation
The Chartered Accountancy profession stands at an inflection point, with several forces shaping its future trajectory. While new technologies like AI, automation and blockchain will disrupt existing audit and tax processes, they will also open up opportunities to add more strategic value. As routine tasks get automated, Chartered Accountants will have more bandwidth for business insights, advanced analytics and holistic advisory services tailored to each client’s needs.
Indeed, according to an article and webinar from IFAC, Artificial intelligence and intelligent automation are leading many companies to invest in digital transformation based on intelligent automation to drive exponential business growth, meet customers’ expectations and enable people to focus on their human strengths to create greater fulfilment. IFAC suggests that professional accountant roles and responsibilities in technology-driven work environments are changing for the better. AI and automation provide the foundation for substantially increasing efficiency and increasing customer and employee satisfaction.
Surge in Advisory and Consulting Services
Deloitte suggests that advisory and consulting will become the fastest growing segment for Chartered Accountants this year. With in-depth operational knowledge and analytical skills, Chartered Accountants are well positioned to provide technology implementation, cybersecurity, data analytics, supply chain transformation, ESG strategy and other high-value advisory services. The “Big Four” firms are already ramping up their capabilities through acquisitions of advisory firms. Small and medium-sized Chartered Accountancy firms will also expand consulting offerings.
Demand for advising clients on carbon strategies, sustainability measurement, integrated reporting, and meeting ESG goals will likely rise sharply. Dedicated ESG consulting teams will emerge. More Chartered Accountants may get involved in financial advisory roles as well. Advanced certifications in disruptive technologies will be highly valued. Auditors may shift towards continuous advisory and real-time auditing rather than periodic compliance audits.
Mainstream Adoption of Hybrid Work Models
The shift towards flexible remote work that began during the pandemic will accelerate further this year. As per Deloitte, hybrid arrangements allowing a mix of office and remote work will become mainstream. For effective collaboration, firms will need to look to modernise communication tools, set goals for virtual teams, redesign processes for remote auditing and reporting, and focus on cybersecurity.
Demand for professionals with human-centred leadership and emotional intelligence skills will rise to manage hybrid teams. Firms may also hire independent Chartered Accountants through freelancing arrangements, thus gaining greater access to global talent. Audit procedures will need rethinking to maintain quality controls and oversight with offsite team members. Training programmes will most likely continue to pivot to self-paced e-learning modules.
Surging Prominence of Sustainability Reporting and Assurance
With stakeholders demanding greater environmental and social accountability, sustainability reporting and assurance will skyrocket as per IFAC, potentially becoming a $700 billion global market by 2025. More jurisdictions will mandate climate-related disclosures as risks intensify. Chartered Accountants will need to develop in-depth expertise in reporting frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), integrated reporting, and the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Key skills the profession will need to adopt include calculating carbon emissions, auditing climate risks, developing internal carbon pricing mechanisms, mapping disclosures to SDGs and advising clients on ESG strategies. Resources like the Chartered Accountants Worldwide sustainability hub and the sustainability roadmap will help with upskilling.
Lifelong Learning and Regular Upskilling
IMA emphasises that with the scale of technological and regulatory changes underway, Chartered Accountants will need to commit to lifelong learning and regular upgrading of their skills. Key capabilities to build through micro-credentials, certifications, virtual coaching and more include digital acumen, data analytics, critical thinking, advisory mindset, sustainability accounting and specialised technical skills in disruptive technologies. Soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability will also be increasingly critical. Firms will need to invest heavily in continuous employee development to retain talent and maintain their relevance in an increasingly crowded workplace.
By embracing technology, flexibility, sustainability and continuous growth, the Chartered Accountancy profession can turn disruption into an opportunity to make a real difference. Equipped with a versatile skillset and an enterprising mindset, Chartered Accountants are poised to transform into strategic partners guiding clients to tangible long-term value. The future remains bright for those who proactively upskill, diversify, and align with the needs of an increasingly complex, connected world.