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Most finance teams and professionals are not evolving their skills fast enough to account for the impact of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and other technologies according to “Re-inventing finance for a digital world”, a study just released by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima).

More than 50percent of finance leaders globally say the competencies of their teams must “change significantly” over the next three years as new technologies take over traditional tasks. The upside: businesses expect a stronger focus on value creation with the automation of repetitive tasks.

Expertise in areas such as data analytics, cyber-risk management and business models will facilitate the shift. There will be the need for a shift in mindset to constantly acquire new skills to deal with complexity and operating in an increasingly agile environment.

Research

Over the course of 18 months, Cima consulted finance professionals from over 2000 public and private organisations of all sizes in 150 countries, including through face-to-face interviews, round-tables and a global survey. The goal was to bring together different organisational views to understand and build a composite picture of the role finance professionals play in business, identify competencies and skills employers expect and map how these are changing in a digital world.

The research revealed that:

Sixty-one percent of finance professionals surveyed expected more than 20percent of finance tasks to be automated in the next 3 years.

More than 55percent have already seen a move towards “somewhat” automated processes. Yet hindsight reporting, for instance, still makes up 65percent of a finance team’s report outputs.

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, chief executive of Management Accounting, said: “Technology is bringing us change at an unprecedented speed and scale. Organisations must constantly enhance their capabilities to seize new opportunities and remain viable.

“For finance professionals it is no different. The changing environment represents a huge opportunity for them to go beyond their core technical comfort zone and embrace emerging technologies as a way to deliver value across their organisations.

“However, to rise to the challenge they will need to hone new skills and competencies to stay employable and competent for a digital world.

“Building on our 100-year heritage of leading the management account- ing profession, we are today launching an enhanced Cima professional quali- fication - CGMA Competency Framework and Digital Mindset - continuing education course to give finance professionals, members and students the tools and resources they need to thrive in this digital age. We will - as we always have done - help finance professionals reach their full potential.”

Dr Sara Bux, the acting RVP Cima Africa - Management Accounting, said: “The speed of change within the finance function means organisations must continually review their capabilities and enhance them as required.

“This will require individuals to acquire new skills to enable them to meet the challenges presented by a changing finance function. Not only will this positively impact the organisation, but the employee will gain the skills needed to remain employable in an industry that is rapidly evolving.

“It is also important to note that a growth mindset is well suited not just to the finance industry, but all industries that have the potential to be impacted by phenomena like robotics and artificial intelligence.”

The research findings and response complement additional research launched this month by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants - the unified voice of Cima and the American Institute of CPAs - and Oracle, which found that 90percent of finance teams do not currently have the skills to support digital transformation and the business’s ability to grow. 

 Chartered Institute of Management Accountants