Keeping up with rapid change
George Arhin, FCMA, CGMA, is a partner in PwC’s assurance practice, the West Africa mining leader, a PwC Business School leader, and the human capital leader for PwC Ghana. Over the course of his career, Arhin has worked on a number of diverse projects in over a dozen countries, developing a reputation for agile learning and versatility.
FM magazine asked him about how he is confronting the challenge of rapid change in finance and technology.
What are the biggest professional challenges that you are facing in the workplace as a management accountant? How are you addressing those challenges?
George Arhin: The biggest challenge has been finding staff with the right blend of competency and character. The demands of the profession have been increasing over time, and often we get graduates who are either great when it comes to competency but lack the required character and resilience to go through the challenges of the job, and vice versa.
We started providing additional training to staff at all levels in our organisation. This year we started a programme where we will be taking our management staff to hand-picked universities to attend advance management training programmes.
How is technology impacting your job, and what are you doing to manage that impact?
Arhin: Technology is having a significant impact on my job. It has taken away most of the routine and repetitive aspects of my job. The biggest impact is on my ability to keep up with technological changes. I now must understand the use of analytical tools and dealing with much more information/data and its analysis than before. Through technology, the pace of work has increased, and this has brought a lot of pressure on me. I am managing all these challenges by constantly updating myself on the use of emerging technologies and hiring the right people to help where required.
What are the most important tools that you are using in your work right now, and which tools do you see yourself using in five to ten years?
Arhin: The most important tools I am currently using are advanced data analytics tools like Halo for Journals, Connect, Power BI, Alteryx, Aura, etc. In the next five to ten years, I see myself using more advanced data analytics tools and artificial intelligence tools.
What are the most important skills for you right now, and what will be the most important skills for you in five to ten years? What are you doing to keep your skills current?
Arhin: Analytical and managerial skills. Having great emotional intelligence and also the ability to analyse data to provide insights and aid decision-making are key skills for what I do. In the next five to ten years the most important skills to me will be my ability to use these analytical skills to provide established trends/predictions and insights to my clients.
I am having several trainings and getting hands-on experience in these areas. I constantly assess my digital fitness through the PwC digital fitness app and constantly seek to improve my fitness level.
If you could magically add something to your toolkit, what would it be?
Arhin: Robotics! Where, for instance, every transaction posted by our clients is reviewed in real time and put through the recognition, measurement, presentation, and disclosure requirements of the standards and corrected or flagged for correction if need be.
What have you learned about management accounting in the last five years? How have your expectations of management accounting changed in the last five to ten years?
Arhin: My expectations of management accounting have changed from:
1. Having management accounting graduates start from the bottom of the hierarchy and rise with time to having them start from middle management, possessing the required soft skills to be able to deliver at that level, and leaving the lower-level, routine work to be automated.
2. Having management accountants have a bit more knowledge of financial accounting, economic, and market intelligence in order to provide a wider range of forward-looking information for organisations.
How have your employer’s expectations of your work changed in the last five years?
Arhin: My employer expects me to make more use of technology in delivering my work. This is because it reduces the cost of business, enhances our revenue, and adds value to our clients’ businesses.
Give your “past self” career advice based on what you’ve learned so far.
Arhin: Stay humble but disciplined, and work very hard to gain a firm understanding of the basics and the requirements of the profession … bearing in mind “form follows function just as algebra comes before calculus”.
What are the most important insights you have gleaned from working in many different countries/regions?
Arhin: I have been privileged to live and work in several countries across the world. The most important insight has been respecting cultural differences. This is crucial for anyone who wants to live and work abroad. Always bear in mind that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (as Peter Drucker put it), and therefore no matter how excellent you are, if you refuse to understand and respect cultural differences, you will fail!
What role do you see for management accounting in your organisation/industry moving forward?
Arhin: The role of management accounting is expected to be getting bigger and attracting a lot of attention in my organisation. This is because of the growth we are currently seeing and the need for more informed reports to aid leadership. I see the current emphasis being placed on management accountants’ insightful analysis and reports in running businesses increasing in the near future.
— Jessica Hubbard is a freelance writer based in South Africa. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.