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The new paradigm: Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA

Chief Executive – Management Accounting for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA

‘We will need to become adaptive learners, requiring more frequent skill and knowledge upgrades.’

Much is said about change and how it is the new constant. It is also recognised that for business — and across economies more widely — technology is driving that change. Cloud computing, process robotics, and data visualisation are new technologies for today; advanced analytics, cognitive computing, in-memory computing, and blockchain are the emerging technologies for tomorrow. New business models continue to emerge as technology disrupts how, when, and where business is done.

Our Association is also on a journey of change. How we serve you, our members, and support your careers is our number one priority — we have made a commitment to transform our services and how you interact with us. Part of this change is about simplification: of what we offer you, and digital journeys and processes. This will mean we can take the "friction" out of your interaction with us.

We aim to provide the right learning to the right member or student through multiple channels and at the right time. This work includes enhancing our CGMA and AICPA online stores.

Hand in hand with an easier self-service approach for members, staff in our contact centres will focus more on the higher-value support they can deliver. And, as befits a global organisation with a mission to drive a dynamic accounting profession worldwide, a further change is that our main operations are now based in three hubs: in the UK (London), in the US (Durham, North Carolina), and now in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur). We remain committed to Durham and London, with operations and people in Malaysia a great addition to our capacity and capability.

Amid the changing business and technology landscape, continuous learning throughout a professional's working life has never been more important. The skills and knowledge we value today have a rapidly decreasing shelf life. Some skills are likely to be obsolete within a couple of years — to be replaced by ones that simply don't exist yet.

This has profound implications for how finance professionals learn and develop new skills. We will need to become adaptive learners, requiring more frequent skill and knowledge upgrades. As management accountants, our value within our organisation moves from "expertise" to one of "agility" and continuous reinvention. Technology increasingly will also augment human intelligence. In the finance function of the future, the technical capabilities of robotics and algorithms combine with the creativity and empathy of human accountants.

These are considerable shifts. The old paradigm of a professional qualification that remains by itself relevant throughout the length of an accountant's career has been overturned, and we will need to develop a new range of "human" skills. Those identified by the World Economic Forum include emotional intelligence, negotiation, and co-ordinating with others. These are the skills that are difficult to replicate by machine learning.

Our Future of Finance research has completed its first three stages: interviews, roundtables, and an extensive online survey. One interviewee from an international bank said: "Finance people need a mindset that enables them to adapt through continuous learning. They need to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a continuous loop." That insight neatly summarises the new paradigm for today's and future CGMA designation holders. All our efforts are focused to ensure that they can achieve this in the most straightforward way possible.