uk iconUK

Mid-life Opportunities

The IFA spoke to members aged 41 and under about the changing role of the profession, and where they saw opportunities – or threats.

Mid-life Opportunities
smsfadviser logo

Earlier this year we asked members aged 41 and under about their perceptions of the current and future role of the accountant. We were interested to learn about the main challenges facing the profession, those presented by new technologies, and how we can help provide the skills and training needed to address these challenges. Some 157 members responded to the survey, with 68% based overseas and 32% UK-based.

Challenges identified

Unsurprisingly, as the survey took place during the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges was that of remote working and the impact that it had on client communication. Over one-third of respondents also indicated they had faced associated challenges with needing more proactive client communication, securing new business and deploying new technology in particular team/client collaboration software (63%) and team management software (59%). The impact of technology was also evident in what members saw as the key challenges facing them in the future.

The most significant being maintaining relevancy with the growth in automation of accounting tasks by artificial intelligence and the increased use of cloud-based accounting tools by clients. Knowledge about some new technologies revealed a skills gap, with 75% of respondents saying that they had at best ‘some knowledge’ of blockchain and cryptocurrencies and 55% indicating a lower level of knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI).

When asked about the effectiveness of their accountancy training and what areas they would like to see incorporated into the syllabus 47% said that including technology - notably cloud software, data analytics, artificial intelligence and practical business skills - would have better prepared them for the challenges they have faced as accountants.

Action and support

Members felt that offering broader strategic services in addition to technical accountancy skills was the most needed action to address the challenges facing accountancy (70.4%) followed by 58.6% seeing developing specialist skills in areas such as R&D, fraud prevention and capital allowances as important.

This focus on training in non-traditional accounting skills was picked up strongly, with more than 73% of responses indicating that the IFA could provide support in this area to help equip accountants in their future careers.

Next steps

Encouragingly, more than 65% respondents said they felt confident in their knowledge, flexibility, and ability to keep up with technology and other challenges. We want to ensure this confidence extends to all members.

A new suite of events will build on the 102 free and 36 paid-for webinars we hosted from June 2020 to July 2021. The recent online tax series covered taxation of crypto assets and future series, in addition to a broad range of tax topics, will look at the tax implications of hybrid working and the evolving landscape when it comes to Making Tax Digital.

Our 2021 international online conference covers integrated reporting, sustainability, fraud, technology and governance. We continue to regularly review the IFA Direct syllabus to ensure it maintains its relevancy and provides aspiring members with the understanding and knowledge required by the future-ready accountant. In addition, we are working with current IFA-endorsed training providers to explore the opportunity of providing data analytics and enhanced financial modelling programmes that could support members and students globally. Finally, we are working to add to the pool of relevant IFA strategic partners, ensuring the range of services available supports members.

Subscribe to Financial Accountant

Receive the latest news, opinion and features directly to your inbox