I was delighted last week to be joined in Wales by ACCA’s Chief Executive, Helen Brand OBE. The visit was a great opportunity to highlight to a wider audience the vital role that finance professionals are playing in supporting the economy of Wales, as well as meeting ACCA members, students and our partners here in Wales.

ACCA has over 3,600 members in Wales, working in all sectors of the economy and supporting businesses of all sizes. We also have over 2,200 students registered in Wales, helping to ensure a pipeline of talent for the future.

Helen met with ACCA members, students and employers, and to discuss challenges and opportunities for Wales with representatives from the financial services sector and public sector – common themes included skills, sustainability and opportunities and risks from AI.

We also visited cybersecurity firm PureCyber at their headquarters in Cardiff – where we were at the same time terrified by the range of threats that businesses face from cybercriminals but also reassured by the support and protection that PureCyber provides for its clients around the world.

Helen also joined Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid’s CEO Paul Butterworth for a really insightful discussion about how ACCA can work more closely to support businesses in Wales, including on skills and international trade – using our global footprint.

Two events in particular highlighted the value of the finance profession.

The first was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the University of South Wales delivering the ACCA qualification – generations of finance professionals have successfully completed the ACCA qualification at USW and have gone on to have rewarding and successful careers. This was encapsulated by the guest speaker Paul Matthews, Chief Executive of Monmouthshire County Council, who spoke eloquently and passionately about the skills that he had gained from studying the ACCA qualification at USW and how these had helped him in his career, now leading a large and complex organisation.

It was also an opportunity to meet with current ACCA students at USW, from the UK and from across the world – it was extremely encouraging to hear their views on the future of the profession and how they are already looking to develop successful careers. These are the professionals of tomorrow, whose skills, expertise and ethical outlook will sustain businesses across the world for the next half-century.

The second event brought together policymakers, academics and business leaders for a summit on growing Green Skills in Wales.

At the event, organised by Business in the Community and held at Cardiff and Vale College, Helen emphasised that this isn’t just about tackling environmental concerns. Far too often people hear the word ‘green’ and they think about rules and restrictions on what they can do as a business. They think ‘unattainable targets’. They think ‘extra costs’. They think about fetters on their freedom.

But that’s all wrong. The exact opposite is true.

The new industries and occupations created by the growing green economy hold the potential to unleash enormous opportunity, and also to use the skills in existing professions. Yes, the green agenda is a response to crisis – a reaction to the urgent need for a new way of doing business that respects people and planet as much as profit. But it is much, much more than that.

It is about an opportunity to shape a powerful, prosperous new economy which works for all people, everywhere, and which creates businesses and economies which are sustainable through to the middle of this century and beyond.

It was interesting to hear from the Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, about Wales’ Green Skills Plan, and look forward to further discussion with the Welsh Government in this important area – and to highlighting the vital role that finance professionals will play in supporting the transition to a net zero economy. Accountants can – and already do – play a crucial role in supporting businesses and organisations of all sizes with the grand challenge of developing green growth and prosperity.

They do this in lots of ways:

  • Supporting a business in calculating its carbon footprint
  • Developing a sustainability strategy
  • Setting goals and measuring progress in achieving goals
  • Advising on reducing costs, for instance by increasing energy efficiency, advising on reshaping business models, finding external finance or by sourcing grants or tax reliefs to make changes

These specific value-building services show once again that embracing green skills has nothing to do with vague aspirations and intangible targets.

There is clearly a need for more opportunities for people to develop these new skills, which contribute to the green economy, which includes reskilling and upskilling existing staff. And it was heartening to be at Cardiff and Vale College with so many businesses and organisations who agree.

I’m proud that ACCA and ACCA members are a part of that story and play our part by building green skills into our Qualification and our CPD Certificates, and also by providing resources such as a practical toolkit to support accountants and SMEs on their sustainability journey. It means that our professionals – like the talented and ambitious people who emerge from USW – are fully equipped with a wide range of adaptable skills which meet the modern needs of sustainable business.

It’s really encouraging to see that when those students qualify, they can work in a Welsh economy where green skills are valued and valuable; where business, government and society are united behind the drive for a sustainable future.

In that sense, we are all pushing at an open door that leads to so many exciting opportunities for the people of Wales; for Welsh business; and for the growth of a truly sustainable and successful Welsh economy.

This is a deeply practical issue…

It’s all about the actions that businesses, policymakers and individuals can make now, in our own lives and work, as together we shift and reshape a vibrant, growing, green economy that is fit for the rest of the 21st century.