I believe that accountants can play a constructive role in the future, assisting both with risk management and sustainable development.
Accountancy profession move beyond the traditional concept of internal control, and to develop sensitive and comprehensive risk-detection capacity.
Accountants and auditors should open up their horizons and take state governance, corporate governance, resource utilisation, environment protection, and corporate social responsibility into consideration in order to help enterprises to realise real, sustainable development.
Accountants need to be trained effectively if they are to play such a role. First and foremost, this means supporting the development of innovation.
They [accountants] are trained to be good at both identifying the problem and solving the problem. Sometimes they need to learn how to challenge the rules while creating new ones. Creativity, however, is not enough.
Professional ethics must be re-established; integrity and responsibility must lie embedded in the soul of every accountant.
Only this way does their creativity bring progress instead of foul play and catastrophe to public life. Given the fast pace of change, accountants need to have a ‘super learning capacity’. ‘They need an international perspective, strategic thinking, professional quality, and communication skills.
They must be able to learn more and faster than their managers so that they will be in a position to play a constructive role.
To add value to society, a good accountant has to have to have integrity. The more that accountants with integrity have influence, the better the entrepreneur society. ‘The thing that makes capitalism effective is the drive to make money.
There are ongoing benefits to business arising from the traditional flow of accountants into industry after being trained in the auditing profession.
The average accountant who spends five or more years in the profession may see a wider variety of businesses than a chief executive will see in a career, The accountant will understand how they make or lose money, and sees good and bad management. So the accountant ends up being an extremely good business analyst and, if able to make decisions, ends up a very good business leader.’ I hope our fellow Rwandans who claim to be accountants see the difference between an accountant and any other profession.
In the past few years accountants have become respected players in the senior management team. They have to be commercially savvy in terms of supporting the business – taking their skills and applying them in the most commercial way possible. However, not every accountant can climb to a highly strategic role.
There will be some who are quite happy to play more of a backroom role – traditional finance and accounting, risk management, and compliance, there is scope for both types of career aspiration.
Much recent demand for accountants has been driven by enhanced compliance requirements, such as Sarbanes–Oxley in US.
That may be a bubble, Accountants can’t assume a permanent upward curve [in demand for their services] for the next decade.
That’s why they need to be investing in their careers. Ambitious accountants need to demonstrate that they have added value to their career by gaining additional qualifications, through on-the-job learning and mentorship. And they have to demonstrate that added value can be translated into the business.
The recent impact of the US Sarbanes–Oxley Act highlighted the accountant’s role and there has been a lot of emphasis and effort in the past few years on internal controls and making sure that financial statement numbers are correct, and that all systems and controls around them are in place and operating properly. Everyone up to the chief finance officer (CFO) has been very much engaged in that process.
Some people would say that has diverted the attention of the CFO from more strategic things. I think it will come back into balance.
I agree that accounting needs to become more relevant. ‘Accounting has got to be made simple,’ If you have a pension deficit, why aren’t you showing it? For example, liabilities such as lease commitments or post-retirement healthcare benefits that are not shown as liabilities on the balance sheet.
People are making promises that are not charged, ‘It’s not the fault of individual accountants, but the system within the business. Directors need to show a true and fair view of state of affairs of a company that is: financial position and financial performance and accountants. So, if an accountant is at the upper level of management, there will be no tricks about any disclosure and measurement.
I view on skills accountants need to develop to be effective in the future. ‘The in-house accountants are going to have to be better skilled in internal business analysis,’ in order to be able to explain things or spot problems with the internal numbers, or even where there might be fraud going on.
Third parties expect more and more accountability. So accountants will need to really understand the underlying business and how it gets translated, whether in internal reporting or external reporting.’
Soft skills, for example in presentation and negotiation, will become increasingly important for accountants. ‘In finance and accounting we are looking for people in the future who can sell new ideas and processes to their clients, so they will need to have advocacy skills,’ Accountants will need to be versed in change management and strategic planning. If they are just seen as the number cruncher, they will never be seen as part of the top team.