When discussing the future of accounting, the conversation usually veers to the digitization of the profession or the role Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play in transforming the practitioner’s duties. However, there are additional predictions one can make about how accounting will or should evolve over the next five to ten years.
Technologies like AI, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and cloud computing will continue to disrupt classical accounting but won’t replace accountants. Rather, the practitioner’s value proposition will migrate away from manual transaction entry, compiling reports and number crunching. Instead, they will channel automatically generated insights into actionable business development initiatives, risk management plans, flexible and sustainable business models, and much more. In short, today’s accountant will be tomorrow’s strategic advisor. SAIPA included in its strategic vision for the Professional Accountant (SA) to become a “value-added business advisor” with competencies in (i) creator of value (strategic business advisor); (ii) enabler of value (operational business advisor); (iii) preserver of value (risk management advisor); and (iv) report of value (business reporter). This requires they embrace technology while developing vital soft skills, like creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, to intuitively deliver powerful solutions.
Persistence of accounting
The US Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts a 10% growth in the demand for accountants and a 19% growth in the demand for financial managers until 2026. That's better than the average US profession and, with the need for accountants growing worldwide, a similar projection would be valid for South Africa. So, robots and AI’s aside, the accountant's services should remain a key business function for at least the next decade.
Iceland recently made it illegal for a man to earn more than a woman. This is a very positive step forward in combating gender discrimination, but it does little to address concerns that many professions are still dominated by men. A quick analysis of the membership count of some of South Africa’s PAOs renders a gender ratio of approximately one female accountant to every two males. However, the success achieved by SAIPA is pursuing the gender transformation of its membership has been phenomenal, viz. the composition of its female members has increased from 28% in 2010 to 47% in 2018.
It is therefore not a prediction but a fact that the profession needs to change dramatically over the next decade. Firms must actively encourage women, who have been marginalised in the past, to enter the profession and give them assurance of equal pay, opportunities and treatment. Through the implementation of Project Achiever, a programme developed to facilitate the preparation SAIPA’s Professional Competence-based Evaluation as well as for the career as a Professional Accountant (SA), the number of female candidates that have graduated to become full members over the past four years amounted to 1,900.