Blog: ACCA Scotland offers 3 wishes for business success in 2017
The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) has published a checklist of 3 key priorities that will underpin the success of the accountancy profession in 2017.
Craig Vickery, head of ACCA Scotland, says that the focus on skills in the wish-list reflects the increasingly vital role professional accountants play in the wider UK economy: “The unpredictability of political events in 2016, and how they can have dramatic impacts on the future of trade and regulations, has really focused attention across business on the need for forward-looking strategic finance professionals at the very heart of firms.
“2017 also comes with fresh uncertainties, whilst the promised start of Brexit negotiations in the spring means that the UK government will be relying on the insights and expert guidance of accountants on a scale rarely seen before
“These wishes should therefore be top of the New Year lists for policy-makers, business leaders and professional accountants alike.”
Accountancy professionals will form the bedrock of reliable financial advice as the government triggers Article 50 and enters in to negotiations in 2017. As students are counted within migration targets and the certainty of freedom of movement remains in doubt, universities’ enrolments from EU students could take a hit. Prevention rather than cure will be key in ensuring businesses aren’t hit by a dearth of skilled workers further down the line. The priority for the coming year must be opening up pathways into professional careers, such as accountancy, for the next generation. Apprenticeships will play a key role here.
Mr Vickery said: “The success of apprenticeship will depend very much on both demand and supply. Demand needs to be generated at all levels if apprenticeships are to succeed in opening up new and high quality career pathways. However, there is some way to go on this. Recent market research conducted by YouGov on behalf of ACCA found that one in three students (between the age of 16 and 18) had not received careers advice on apprenticeships at all.
“Offering more apprenticeships and improving the visibility of alternative routes in to professional careers for those who are unsure about graduate routes, will lay the foundations for a diverse, highly-skilled talent pool when we need it most.”
As we enter 2017 many businesses will be preparing for the incoming Apprenticeship Levy which will see many businesses contribute to and draw down upon funding to open up more apprenticeship places for school leavers. However, recent ACCA research found that half of all respondents felt an apprenticeship would limit their career path flexibility further down the line.
Mr Vickery said: “Although apprenticeships offer direct routes into specific sectors the schemes are engineered to offer a range of transferable skills. In many cases these routes instil leadership and project management capabilities, financial management skills and improved communication abilities.
“Going forward into 2017, it is vital that opening up apprenticeship placements is not seen simply as a way to offset levy payments but as a practical way to arm students with the transferable skills required to succeed and add value to businesses across the board.”
As well as preparing for the workforce of the future, ACCA’s wish-list highlights the need for the continued professional development of accountancy professionals as they offer a steady hand as firms deal with a shifting business landscape.
In 2016, ACCA conducted research looking at the future of the profession and the shifting business demands that would shape the role of accounting professionals. The report found that shifting business expectations alongside globalisation and digital connectivity agendas would require accountants to ‘step out of the back room’ and develop the creative, emotional and digital skills to have a hand in shaping business strategy, particularly as companies prepare for instability during Britain’s exit from the EU.
Mr Vickery said: “Accountancy professionals must gear up for years of uncertainty and build upon existing competencies to offer trusted, technically advanced advice as businesses prepare to navigate changing trade relationships, new regulatory environments and put together reliable financial forecasts.
“With big changes comes opportunity. Professional accountants have a critical role to play in ensuring businesses are able to navigate the uncertainty ahead and seize the opportunities that will arise along the way.
“Continuing to develop skills and hone core capabilities should be central to the New Year plans for both practising and aspiring professional accountants.”