Accountants Reframing New Skills

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Mar 6, 2019 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Trends, IT, Candidate, Accounting and Finance

With financial data moving out of the silos in organizations, the management accountant has followed. In the past, the management accountant would work in total isolation, delivering various reports that are filled with all sorts of numbers on spreadsheets. Today, they have a much higher likelihood of being embedded in a business unit or working with various project teams.

Today, recruiters are more likely to advertise for an “analyst” or “business partner,” instead of the long-established industry title of a “management accountant".

The main driver for this strategy is due to boards and management searching for individuals with quality accounting skills who are able to take the data given and then draw from the insights that are able to be communicated properly for business. If this is able to be done in real time, then it is even better.

Forward-Looking, Predictive Data

The types of changes mentioned above has been hastened by various technology tools including artificial intelligence, along with machine learning, which have been serious catalysts for the transformation of the management accountant role.

Those who attended the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne based CPA Management Accounting Conference that took place in August 2018 heard the way that technology has effectively transformed this role in the recent years. This has meant that management accountants need to develop new skills around leadership, communication and presentation.

A panel was recently hosted by Australian head of COS Capital in Melbourne by William Young CPA which argued that management accounting is actually a social science where practitioners have to socialize in order to better understand a business and build new relationships.

Young, who has moved from a tax accounting and management job to a broader position in strategy and investment, says that there is a sense of excitement and opportunity in the profession as the roles have changed. He stated that there was a feeling that there are much broader and wider horizons today for management accountants.

The change has progressed extremely quickly over the previous eight to 10 years and that the tech development is being moved to AI while additional transitions are going to occur even faster.

Yesterday’s management accountants were much more involved with data preparation, rather than analysis and presentation.

Today, they have to understand a business in much greater depth, and they must present ideas that are able to contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Climbing the Management Accounting Ladder

There have also been a number of changes as to where the role has been positioned in the actual organizational structure. Rather than have a back seat in the finance function at the head office, the management accountant today is much more likely to be seen in the business units, working with employees that are not actually part of the finance function but who require various finance based insights to help with their decision-making.

Today there are management accountants in business units working much closer within the business to help deliver positive outcomes. These are the people who used to be the proverbial “stick holders,” coming down and just pointing at numbers and saying things like “this is not right.” However, now they are required to contribute to this discussion and take part in the plan of how they can work to make it better.

This all requires new skills and while some are around analysis, presentation, and data visualization, there are others that are considered “softer” and which are more focused on interpersonal communication.

Thanks to this transition, those with more introverted personalities who would have become a management accountant in the past are now finding new roles, such as financial accountant, or find themselves in a position that works more directly with data. The role of the management accountant has evolved along with that of accountants in general.

Tech is also doing a lot of the data entry work that the MA use to handle, and now they really need this skill in order to move up in this business and become a strategic leader and provider of various business solutions.

Accounting to Achieve a Specific Change

Recruiters have seen both job seekers and employers responding to the transformation. The demand for management accountants are in various business units and within project teams, where they are actually needed for taking data and to bridge the communication gap with the business leaders.

For this, IT skills, systems, and up to date data are essential, and the role is also all about interpreting and then communicating the various data insights.

Hiring firms that are currently using various titles, such as “finance business partner,” and “business analyst” when they advertise what are actually management accountant roles find that candidates are now responding to these varied positions with much more enthusiasm.

Anything with a “partner” or “analyst” in the job title is much more attractive than something that is just titled “accountant,” as these jobs are now more “behind the scenes.”

While the younger generation wants to be viewed as an analyst, this carries along the expectation for a person to go into the business world and in some cases candidates won’t have the necessary skills. To actually be an analyst is a job position that is much more attractive for them as they are also thinking about their future.

The next step for career progression of those in the role of a management accountant is going to move into financial analysis and planning, and perhaps even into the realm of commercial management.

If you're looking to move into a new role, contact ICS. We can help you find a role that fits your transformation and career goals. Click below to see which opportunities are currently available. 

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