Recent research, conducted by ACCA takes a look at the current state of the UK workplace for finance professionals. Analysing key areas such as remuneration, staff retention, employee wellbeing, AI and diversity and inclusion, the study highlights the state of affairs for the finance profession across the UK.

AI has been dominating the conversation for UK finance professionals, but the response has been positive on the whole. Two thirds of survey respondents reported feeling positive about AI, seeing it as a tool to add more value to their roles and reduce data-heavy tasks. The fact that almost three quarters (71%) are keen for more training on how to best use AI demonstrates that the UK’s finance professionals want to understand and utilise AI effectively. Using AI to reduce time-intensive but low value work tasks means more time is freed up for high value work.

The pace of change in technology at work was a concern for one fifth (22%) of respondents, who felt overwhelmed by the rapid rate at which technology was advancing and changing.  However, the global average for this was 37%, indicating that UK finance professionals feel more prepared and resilient in the face of change than their global peers.

Concerns raised by respondents around AI included job displacement, qualifications taking longer, and the risks of AI such as privacy, security and ethical use of data, as well as potential issues of over-reliance on AI.

Alongside AI, ACCA’s survey revealed that finance and accounting employees in the UK are still very much embracing a hybrid work model, with 64% reporting this was their working pattern, almost a third higher than the global average of 41%. Only 21% of those surveyed are working full time in the office in the UK – globally, that figure jumps to 52%.

However, there is a trade-off between productivity and team collaboration highlighted by the survey, with 68% saying working remotely improves their productivity, and 49% saying it makes team collaboration harder. Respondents did cite benefits of being in the office (in addition to improved collaboration) including workplace cultural reinforcement and adoption, particularly for new hires, organic learning and networking opportunities.

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Commenting on this, ACCA UK senior manager of policy and insights, Joe Fitzsimons, said: “The responses from UK finance professionals in this survey around AI reflects a growing conversation about how technology will change the future of work. It is positive to see that two third of respondents are optimistic about the role of AI and even more are keen to understand it more through training and upskilling. While UK finance professionals are more optimistic than their global peers, there is still a long way to go in full rollout of AI in organisations, and ACCA will continue to provide insight, research and support for a smooth transition.”

ACCA UK strategic engagement lead for England, Gemma Gathercole, added: “The UK offers a diverse range of opportunities for those finance professionals. It remains a competitive landscape thanks to the high level of hybrid working available, allowing for improved work life balance for many.

“We know from our many partners that offering training, professional development and other employee benefits is something they are putting in place or are keen to implement. AI is a big part of that and ACCA is keen to support employees and employers in striking the right balance and implementing the technology effectively. Finding ways to support employers in attracting and retaining talent while remaining competitive from a salary and job opportunities perspective is something ACCA will continue to support members with through education and policy outreach.”