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Thoughts for 2019: Getting the balance right

At the time of writing, market turbulence was in the headlines, alongside political turbulence. This instability has knock-on effects – politically, economically and in business. The profession is not immune from all this, so this got me thinking about what the future holds for the profession. Accountants already face an increasingly complex set of expectations from employers and society.

We do not see these demands diminishing. The profession has always had to expertly balance these expectations, and for 2019 this balancing act may feel like a high-wire performance! Very much in play in 2019 will be the need to balance ‘support versus challenge’ expectations. Being an effective business partner involves the ability to support ambitions, but alongside this comes the need to meet control and objectivity obligations.

The finance function needs to challenge and interrogate, so the CFO of 2019 will need to demonstrate commercial acumen while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and oversight. This will be an even more highly valued asset, alongside balancing and integrating multiple expectations into one’s skill-set. Another area where balance is needed is the relationship between accountants and technology.

Much has been said about the disruption of technology for the profession. Automation has already taken on routine tasks, but tech presents opportunities for professional accountants to move up the value chain, to add even more value and to focus on more complex or nuanced activities that benefit from human insight. Accountants need to balance tech, how it is used, and how its outputs are interpreted.

The professional accountant will also need to balance their own future skills. In our report Professional Accountants – the Future: Drivers of Change and Future Skills we found that while technical capabilities are a core need, the professional accountant also needs to possess a wider set of capabilities.

These ‘professional quotients’ are ethics, experiential learning, intelligence, creativity, digital capability (DQ), vision and the emotional quotient (EQ). So a key factor for the professional accountant of the now and the future will be the ability to effectively integrate DQ and the EQ.

There will be even more of a role for emotions in a technology-led world. In our report Emotional Quotient in a Digital Age, we explain that many of us have an intuitive sense of EQ, something to do with emotions and being able to interact effectively with people to build trust. But there can also be confusion around EQ: does it run counter to what accountants are supposed to do? Can it cloud judgement and potentially compromise objectivity?

The source of this confusion lies in equating emotions with emotional intelligence. Just as data analytics can be badly implemented to create misleading insights, similarly, emotions can destroy value. A balance has to be struck here too. So as we start 2019, all at ACCA wish TA readers a balanced year ahead – where we can balance our EQ with our DQ, where we can challenge and interrogate, where we can have a work-life balance and, of course, where the bottom line always balances perfectly.

Happy New Year!

By Narayanan Vaidynathan, head – business insights, ACCA


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