Changing competencies and mindsets

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Changing competencies and mindsets

Creating a vision for the future Research emerging themes

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA?)

CGMA is the most widely held management accounting designation in the world. It distinguishes more than 150,000 accounting and finance professionals who have advanced proficiency in finance, operations, strategy and management. In the U.S., the vast majority are also CPAs. The CGMA designation is underpinned by extensive global research to maintain the highest relevance with employers and develop competencies most in demand. CGMAs qualify through rigorous education, exam and experience requirements. They must commit to lifelong education and adhere to a stringent code of ethical conduct. Businesses, governments and nonprofits around the world trust CGMAs to guide critical decisions that drive strong performance.ww

Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) is the most influential body of professional accountants, combining the strengths of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to power opportunity, trust and prosperity for people, businesses and economies worldwide. It represents 650,000 members and students in public and management accounting and advocates for the public interest and business sustainability on current and emerging issues. With broad reach, rigour and resources, the Association advances the reputation, employability and quality of CPAs, CGMAs and accounting and finance professionals globally.



Creating a vision for the future


Theme 4: Changing competencies and mindsets


Technology and intelligence augmentation


The automation paradox


From knowledge collection to interpretation


Mindsets and learning


Learn, unlearn and relearn


Changing competencies and automation


The future of finance: join us on our journey




Further reading


Creating a vision for the future

You can't see the future, but with the right insight you can prepare for it. We've created this briefing paper as part of a year-long, worldwide project to understand the future form and direction of the finance function.

Change is the new norm in many organisations ? particularly within the finance function. Yet, because of this rapid evolution, there isn't a composite picture of the finance function of the future. It is this vision that we, at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, aim to create.

With 650,000 members and students in 179 countries, we are uniquely well-positioned to work with global stakeholders to investigate, analyse and document how the finance function is changing.

Using interviews, roundtables and surveys, this comprehensive global research project brings together different organisational views ? to deliver insight into the process of change and to synthesise a composite picture of the finance function of the future.

To do this, we conducted more than 300 interviews and 50 roundtable discussions on the future of finance and identified several common trends emerging across a range of topics. These trends provided our research team with a series of insights into the finance function of the future and this paper is the fourth of four that explore the key emerging themes from our research. These themes are:

1. The changing role and mandate of finance

2. Changing technology and finance

3. The changing shape of the finance function

4. Changing competencies and mindsets

Our project aims to answer the following questions for you:

XXHow will the future be different for your organisation? XXWhat are the drivers of change for your organisation? XXWhat are the implications for finance? XXHow should finance prepare for these changes?

1 Theme 4 ? Changing competencies and mindsets

Theme 4: Changing competencies and mindsets

This briefing paper will:

XXexplore how technological automation is shifting the competency skills set required by finance professionals

XXintroduce the concept of a growth mindset

XXdemonstrate the increasing need for us all to learn and relearn continually, as new technologies replace our timeworn skills and knowledge.

Reading time: 20 minutes.

"Finance people need a mindset that enables them to adapt through continuous learning."

In one interview (quote above), a banking sector representative explained that, when hiring finance professionals, their organisation looked for "broad capability and a mindset, rather than the ability to use certain tools and techniques".

They described this mindset as "being able to challenge the status quo, adapt, and make an impact when driving change". Adopting it enables employees to be more resilient and gain a higher level of emotional intelligence.

Until recently, we have assumed that competencies influence and enable performance. However, throughout our research, many interviewees made reference to `the mindset of the management accountant' when presenting personal views of what makes a good finance professional.

In this and other ways, our research is challenging current competency assumptions. While competencies are still very important for the finance professional, it's a specific mindset that makes the greatest difference in the working environment.

Technology and intelligence augmentation

Looking to the future, technology is impacting both competencies and mindsets. The use of technology in the finance function is creating a model of `intelligence augmentation', where technology augments 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.

Technology is augmenting finance professionals' capabilities ? making them faster, more efficient and more productive. It's no longer human versus machine, because new technologies can learn from the accountant and be customised to fit the specific needs of your finance function. Thanks to technology, we now live in a world where answers are cheap, plentiful and instant. However, in this world, the finance professional's ability to construct a good question becomes paramount. The curiosity of a good question is worth a million good answers. It has the ability to inspire and compel people to think and act.

Dr Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of `Wired' Magazine, and the futurist advisor on the 2002 Spielberg science fiction film `Minority Report', defines a good question as:

A good question is not concerned with a correct answer. A good question cannot be answered immediately. A good question challenges existing answers. A good question is one to which you want the answer, but had no inkling of your interest before it was asked. A good question creates new territory of thinking. A good question reframes its own answers. A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics and business. A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario. A good question skirts on the edge of what's known and not known, neither silly nor obvious. A good question cannot be predicted. A good question will be the sign of an educated mind. A good question is one that generates other good questions. A good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do. A good question is what humans are for.i

We all need to build time for fluid contemplation and the construction of the good question into our working lives, instead of rushing for the instant answer.


A desire to reduce complexity is motivating interviewees to make further investment in technological solutions. In organisations where mergers and acquisitions have recently taken place, the drive is to harmonise a number of different systems across many sites. In other organisations, the motivation is to ensure information systems talk to each other through automation, so that resource can be freed up. The freed finance resource can then move away from transactional processing (technical and business analytical skills) into the role of finance partner (people and leadership skills), to focus on the values and synergies of business goals.

Haskel and Westlake talk about the importance of `systemic innovators', which allow organisational information flows, and facilitate `serendipitous interactions' across a business:

Such innovators are not inventors of single, isolated inventions. Rather, their role is to coordinate the synergies that successfully bring such an innovation to market.ii

Are these innovators the finance partners of the future? With their end-to-end view of a business, in future will they be found developing and deploying solutions for an organisation? With all these scenarios, the key skills base of finance professionals is moving into the expert, problemsolving arena, and adopting competencies involved in influencing and change management.

The automation paradox

When thinking about the impact that process robotics will have on the finance function, the `automation paradox' needs to be considered. As systems become more automated, humans lose some of their skills within the system. This results in more automation. However, when faced with an unusual situation that requires a switch to manual control, an organisation may no longer have the skills to deal with atypical conditions.iii An example from the world of the stock markets and trading floors is the use of computers and algorithms to increase the speed of decision-making. With automated decision-making between firms, malfunctioning algorithms have created trading flash crashes. The automation paradox is therefore something to be aware of when considering competencies and mindsets of the future.

From knowledge collection to interpretation

The role of the finance professional is shifting from one of knowledge collection and creation, to instead interpreting meaning and curating the information outputs produced by software solutions. As the finance function emerges from working in isolation to collaborating with others in the organisation, this shift will intensify as the required skills change. For the finance professional, the changing role and mandate of finance, the impact of technology and the changing shape of the finance function each have implications for their required skills, competencies and mindsets going forward.

An example of this can be seen in the changing nature of the broad roles within finance, explored in our `Emerging theme 1: The changing role and mandate of finance'. Here, the broad roles of the finance function are moving from left to right, beneath the umbrella terms of `reporting', `questioning', `developing solutions' and `deploying solutions'.

Figure 1: Competencies and skills under pinning the Broad finance roles



Developing solutions

Deploying solutions

Finance works in isolation

Technical skills

Business skills Analytics

3 Theme 4 ? Changing competencies and mindsets

Finance works with others

Expert technical skills Problem-solving skills

Change management

Negotiation Communication


This journey will also impact the skills required of the finance professional, moving them from technical and analytical, to problem-solving and change management skills (Figure 1).

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