Mick Jagger. Janet Jackson. Robert Plant.

Three legends from the glamorous world of pop – and they are linked by the curious fact that before stardom struck, they were all destined to become accountants.

And they aren’t the only big names who were lured away from glittering finance careers when fate took them in other directions. We can say the same about comedian Eddie Izzard. Billion-selling thriller writer John Grisham. Tennis ace Venus Williams.

It might be too soon to declare accountancy as the new rock’n’roll, but we are seeing signs that finance professionals are beginning to lose the unfair ‘boring’ tag.

I think this is because the nature of the job is changing so fast.

The explosion of digital technology around the world has made accountants more important in business, not less as has been predicted. Automation and the rise of artificial intelligence means that much of the routine work once carried out by accountants can now be done quicker, cheaper and just as accurately by machines.

But this hasn’t led to accountants going the way of the top-hat maker, the cooper and the wheelwright – from once-common trade to niche craft. Quite the opposite. It has freed accountants to do more varied work, with more emphasis on strategy, creativity and leadership than the keeping of figures and compilation of reports.

These enhanced finance skills have been in high demand since the pandemic hit, triggering a fiscal squeeze throughout world business. The margins between success and failure were narrower than ever, especially for small enterprises with fewer financial resources and less access to credit as big concerns. Often it was up to the finance experts to navigate a way through the stormy seas of falling revenues, supply chain crises and profit crunches. It’s why 91% of UK small businesses say that accountants are critical to their success, according to a poll by software firm Sage. That is why there is such fierce demand right now for accountants everywhere, including here in Wales.

One woman defending the reputation of accountants is Claire Bennison, the head of ACCA UK. She hit back against lazy stereotyping of accountants in a recent article in the trade magazine, PQ.

“We know that accountants are the centre of a business’s universe,” she wrote. “All things gravitate towards the finance team and that’s an exciting place to be.

“Studying to become an accountant opens doors to an exciting and rewarding career that can take you anywhere you want to be in any sector. It’s what you make it.”

The profession is changing all the time as business changes, and accountants are pretty good at responding to that. They’ve had to be, and it’s a job where you have to learn all the time – to keep moving forward, never standing still, and constantly learning new skills.

These are turbulent times, with the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine remining us that peace and security are precious commodities. The devastating humanitarian crisis and fall out from the conflict heightens the challenges the global economy was already facing from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet whilst no one profession can solve all the challenges global society faces, they can each play their part and contribute to helping make the world a better place for the future in different ways.

ACCA recently released a new report, ‘Accounting for a Better World’, providing an overview of the contribution the profession can make in transforming the world for the better. It identifies seven core areas of focus, as well as sharing case studies and stories – bringing to life why the accountancy profession matters, and why it remains integral in helping economies and wider society to advance in the future. All of these issues are of relevance to Wales, today and into the future:

 

  • Building resilient economies for the future including the role of accountancy in supporting economies, driving financial literacy and helping address corruption.
  • Developing the talent of tomorrow helping cultivate a new generation with financial skills in the workplace, delivering world class business and financial education and contributing to diversity and equality.
  • Driving sustainable business with professional accountants in whatever role they perform as being essential in helping organisations create long term value and delivering accountability and transparency across business.
  • Advancing standards and regulation – the role the profession plays in future regulatory reform, working to develop regulation and standards that are the bedrock of trust in capital markets and that help the world respond to major societal and environmental challenges.
  • Transforming the public sector – accountancy at the centre of public sector change, helping deliver the right sorts of policy and spending decisions and transforming public financial management to create a more digital, green and inclusive future across global society.
  • Supporting entrepreneurial growth with accountancy as a foundational pillar at the heart of the future entrepreneurial economy, with smaller accountancy firms as the trusted advisers offering innovative and technology-led services to support local business growth.
  • Strengthening ethics and trust with the profession helping restore and strengthen trust in business, government and other institutions. Serving the public interest and driving enhanced corporate governance standards to increase stakeholder confidence in organisations.

We have a responsibility to future generations to ensure they inherit a better world. As this report demonstrates, the accountancy profession can play a vital role in this, by continuously evolving and helping deliver a more equitable, green and inclusive world for the future.

As the old saying goes: ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’ And Mick Jagger would no doubt agree.