Head of ACCA Wales
The role of accountancy and finance professionals has dramatically evolved in the pandemic, but only one in three think their current elevated status will be an enduring change, according to a recent global survey from the Association of Chartered Certified Accounts (ACCA) and PwC.
The finance profession has experienced a ‘five years in five months’ evolution due to Covid-19, as organisations increasingly looked to them to plot a path of financial stability in challenging business conditions.
The increased focus on financial and strategic skills, such as planning, forecasting and scenario analysis, has given accountants a seat at the leadership table as senior executives have called on their skills to ensure survival and to maintain the balance sheet.
However, the unrelenting demands of the last year have placed a strain on the mental health of finance professionals globally and the report warns that they must ensure their own wellbeing if they are to remain valuable to their organisations and clients. Finance leaders need to continue to manage this issue, especially as they plan a potential return to the office and develop new ways of working that increase productivity, collaboration and employee engagement.
While 48% of finance leaders said mental health concerns was the priority issue facing their organisation, less than half that percentage said environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations were the priority, raising a concern that issues such as the climate crisis have taken a back seat while organisations firefight the global pandemic. However, stakeholder interest in this area is growing rapidly and finance teams have an important part to play in explaining the organisation’s journey.
The report Finance Functions: Seizing the Opportunity also recommends a plan of action for accountants to retain their new-found status in organisations and capitalise on new opportunities.
Author Clive Webb, head of business management at ACCA, says they must concentrate on investing in their own capabilities in data, technology, innovation, collaboration and strategy to remain as pivotal in the post-pandemic era.
Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, said:
‘There is an opportunity to build an even more relevant finance function, based on data, insights and collaboration. Finance teams cannot afford to lose sight of this.
‘If finance teams continue to focus purely on financial measures, when cashflow ceases to be the issue, there is a risk that organisations will revert to their pre-pandemic practices. There is a definite need to embrace change and develop skills.’
Brian Furness, partner and global head of finance consulting at PwC, added that:
‘The challenge now for finance is to build on the progress made during the pandemic and take a central role in defining business strategy and direction. It is critically important they do this at a time when business models are changing and stakeholder interest in broader measures of business performance is increasing.’