By AAT Comment Members How technology is shaping finance and accounting job roles 3 Aug 2023 As tech takes on rote tasks, finance and accounting roles are becoming more strategic – but harder to fill. In the ever-evolving landscape of modern business, finance and accounting (F&A) departments are starting to transcend their traditional roles as number-crunchers. F&A teams and finance leaders are playing an increasingly critical role in keeping businesses resilient and agile. Today, they hold a pivotal position, with the ability to provide vital financial intelligence that contributes to strategic decision-making. As a result, skills that go beyond the traditional and transactional are increasingly in demand. However, according to the Financial Reporting Council, the number of students and qualified members joining established industry bodies like ACCA and ICAEW has declined since 2016. Amid fierce competition, F&A leaders are quickly realising that building their future talent pipeline is as crucial as it is challenging. Increased demand for tech-savvy recruits Meanwhile, technological advancements over the past decade have unleashed a vast array of opportunities for businesses to streamline processes, optimise workflows and improve overall efficiency. From automation and data analytics to financial reporting and regulation compliance, technology serves as the catalyst for a more efficient and strategic F&A. The fast evolution of Generative AI and Machine Learning in recent months has only pushed this topic further up the business agenda and highlighted the need to keep up with the latest technological advancements. Historically, F&A has been the victim of a serious lack of investment from a technological perspective when compared with other areas of a business. However, research commissioned by BlackLine suggests that technology, and in turn those with technology skills, are now more in demand as businesses try to adapt to market instability. In fact, in a recent survey, a fifth (21%) of C-suite and F&A professionals said their company would actually increase investment in technology during economic uncertainty, in order to boost their company’s resilience. This means the demand for professionals who can seamlessly blend financial expertise with tech-savvy skills is also at an all-time high. In a previous survey, the same audience were asked about the skills their company would need to adapt and grow over the next five years. The biggest concern, shared by 38% of respondents, was not having the right skills to digitally transform as quickly as competitors. Respondents also said the biggest challenge their organisation faces when it comes to recruiting future F&A talent was the ability to find people with the right mix of technology and F&A skills. Additionally, over a quarter (27%) admitted they didn’t currently have enough people at their company with software and technology experience within the finance function – this rose to nearly a third (31%) amongst CFOs. Removing the mundane While new technology undoubtedly adds more demands to the long list of requirements for new F&A recruits, its positive impact on talent acquisition and retention cannot be underestimated. By removing rote, repetitive, manual tasks, businesses can free up time to allow F&A talent to focus on developing their roles and careers. Instead of moving numbers around a spreadsheet, F&A employees can focus on the tasks that will provide the insights and consultancy needed to help their business make smarter, faster decisions. This can undoubtedly help with retention, alleviating the demand issue. Importantly, it also creates a more attractive workplace environment to appeal to the limited supply of new talent. A third (32%) of survey respondents said younger workers in particular expect their organisation to be more digitally capable than it is. If companies wish to appeal to the very best new F&A talent, they need to address the expectations of new recruits. By removing the mundane, they will be in a stronger position to offer more creative, strategic roles. Embracing a new F&A It should go without saying that to attract and retain top-tier talent, organisations must prioritise career development and upskilling initiatives. By providing comprehensive training programs that focus on developing tech skills, companies can empower their existing finance teams to adapt to the changing landscape and become more agile in handling digital tools. Meanwhile, emphasising a culture of continuous learning and technological innovation will attract professionals who are eager to embrace the digital transformation of finance and accounting. The convergence of financial expertise and tech skills will be the driving force behind the transformation of F&A roles. By investing in the automation of manual tasks and upskilling existing talent, businesses can bridge the gap between finance and technology, and create a robust and agile F&A department prepared to play its pivotal role in business success over the coming months and years. Joshua May, Consulting Manager EMEA, BlackLine AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.