Shaping the next generation – insights from the second global future leaders think tank.

CAW Think Tank New York

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By Antje Derks

The second Chartered Accountants Worldwide global future leaders think tank convened at Fordham University’s Lincoln Campus in New York City on June the 12th 2024 – bringing together bright minds from Chartered Accountancy Institutes from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well as accounting students from the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.

The purpose of the think tank is to discuss and ultimately devise strategies to modernise the Chartered Accountancy profession, engaging Gen Z and Gen Alpha to ensure a steady future talent pipeline. CAW’s research involving over 800 aspiring Chartered Accountants aged 18-34 from seven key markets indicated that while the profession retains its prestige, various obstacles deter younger generations from pursuing it.

Indeed, the primary aim is to ensure the Chartered Accountancy profession evolves to meet changing expectations and remains relevant and attractive to future generations. This initiative reflects a proactive approach, leveraging insights from emerging leaders. During mobility and nine participants identified priority areas for improvement, including updating the curriculum to emphasise technology, dispelling myths about the profession, highlighting its global mobility, and using marketing to challenge perceptions of prestige in the United States.

A key finding was the need to communicate the requirement of 150 credit hours to sit the US CPA exams earlier in students’ academic journeys. Misconceptions about the profession, such as viewing it as solitary, need to be addressed. The think tank stressed the importance of highlighting accountancy as a foundation for diverse career opportunities, which they believe would make it more appealing to young individuals.

Cultural perceptions significantly influence the profession’s image. In many regions, Chartered Accountants and CPAs are seen as passive, contrasting with the adventurous ideals admired in the US. Emphasising the global mobility and varied career paths of CPAs and Chartered Accountants can counter this stereotype. Engaging high school students with real-life stories and interactions with professionals can demystify the profession, moving beyond the outdated image of accountants as mere number crunchers.

The enduring value and portability of Chartered Accountancy and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) qualifications should be more effectively emphasised. Highlighting the financial success of accountants, who are among the top earners in the US, can attract young talent, positioning the profession as a lucrative and stable career choice.

Educational and training approaches need to evolve. Integrating interdisciplinary skills like advanced technology and sustainability into accountancy education can keep the curriculum aligned with market demands. Practical experiences can enhance soft skills and business acumen, ensuring well-rounded professionals. Tailored continuous professional development focusing on industry-specific needs, leadership, data analytics, and change management is essential for maintaining competitiveness.

Changing perceptions of prestige is crucial, especially in the US. Addressing stereotypes that portray accountants (Chartered or CPA) as mere compliance officers and instead showcasing them as integral decision-makers within organisations is vital. Promoting the rigorous standards and strategic value of Chartered Accountant and CPA designations can elevate the profession’s prestige. Highlighting dynamic roles in various industries can attract a broader talent pool.

To enhance the profession’s prestige, professional bodies, educational institutions, and industry leaders should collaborate on innovative campaigns showcasing young, dynamic professionals in exciting roles. Using modern platforms like TikTok can effectively reach younger audiences and dispel myths about the profession. Emphasising the strategic importance of accountants in organisational decision-making can further elevate the profession’s status, ensuring it continues to attract future leaders. Indeed, as one participant put it “Chartered Accountants are like puzzle solvers and the ultimate truth tellers in the boardroom”.

The findings and recommendations from the global future leaders think tank will be used to provide a comprehensive roadmap for the future of the Chartered Accountancy profession. By addressing key issues and leveraging insights from young leaders, the profession can ensure its relevance, appeal, and prestige for the next generation. and position Chartered Accountancy as an appealing global career path that will allow them to make a difference locally as well as globally.