ACCA professionals have long embraced continuous learning and development as fundamental to maintaining high professional standards and successful careers. But, amid far-reaching disruption, the need for technologically-savvy leaders to drive rapid business transformation means upskilling and building capabilities have become much more urgent, writes Neil Johnson.
ACCA has therefore launched the Certificate in Fintech for Finance and Business Leaders, an online programme with practical insight into fintech technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation.
Machine learning, RPA, AI and blockchain could change the face of business, especially finance functions, financial services companies and practices over the next decade.
PwC’s 2019 Global Fintech Report found that 80 per cent of technology, media and telecommunications companies and 75 per cent of financial services organisations are creating jobs related to fintech, yet 42 per cent of companies in each group are struggling to fill these roles.
McKinsey identified in 2018 that technology at that time could fully automate 42 per cent of finance activities and mostly automate a further 19 per cent. For example, over 80 per cent of accounts payable processes could be automated using intelligent capture and RPA.
The rubber is truly hitting the road
Hybrid professionals with broad skillsets that include technical finance expertise with increasingly deep technological nous, have been talked about for some time, but meeting the capability needs is becoming critical.
ACCA’s Professional accountants – the future: Drivers of change and future skills released in 2016, found that over half respondents identified intelligent automated accounting systems as the factor likely to drive the most change.
Five years later, three of the five career zones of opportunity identified in our Future ready: accountancy careers in the 2020s report can be linked to technology, data and disruption: the business transformer; the data navigator and the digital playmaker.
What we mean by fintech
JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon in April called fintech an ‘enormous competitive threats’ to banks.
Fintech is often associated first with banking and financial services, but it goes beyond this to the heart of most enterprises, interconnecting various functions and channels, and ‘de-silo-ing’ operations. Fintech can cover payments, insurance, regulations, wealth management, cybersecurity and blockchain, all of which can have a direct or indirect impact on finance functions and how they interact with a business.
Furthermore, the digitisation and automation of finance tasks provides greater volumes of data from which machine learning and AI can then illicit deeper and more insightful management information. Finance professionals will be called upon to then add value on top of this, to think strategically and integrate finance into the engine of a business.
McKinsey’s report, The future of capability building, says that the next 10 years will bring ‘fundamental changes to our working world, and to adapt, employees in almost every role and industry will need to acquire new skills. The Covid-19 crisis has only accelerated these shifts’.
ACCA’s new fintech certificate
ACCA has developed the Certificate in Fintech for Finance and Business Leaders, an online programme of three courses developed in conjunction EdX to provide professionals with practical insights into fintech technologies such as AI, machine learning, and RPA and intelligent automation.
The three courses are:
- Machine learning with Python: What lies beneath machine learning output? How do you better interrogate models? Partnering with data scientists for deeper understanding and wider adoption. How automation can finance function efficiency
- Managing the cyber threat: Facilitating risk assessments, identifying potential threats and addressing basic hygiene factors. Understanding the vulnerabilities cyber criminals might exploit and the business impact of a cyber attack. The risks posed by third-party suppliers and how to select and manage these relationships.
- Robotic process and intelligent automation: Understanding how automation can make finance functions more efficient and support organisational strategy. Identifying the opportunities for automation, develop the business case for investment and support implementation.
In ACCA’s The digital accountant: digital skills in a transformed world report, 89 per cent of respondents (a survey of 4,264 accountancy and finance professionals globally, including members, affiliates and students) said that digital skills were either necessary or very necessary, while 68 per cent said they use digital skills all the time in their work. Furthermore, 37 per cent said they needed to learn machine learning skills and a further 35% said developing cyber security skills was essential to their careers.
In PwC’s Global Fintech Report 2019, key barriers to organisations fully embracing technology were concerns around inexperienced and unskilled workforces, security and data privacy, and the transformation process, as new systems clash with legacy systems.
The pace of change and technological innovation and adoption is so fast that skills gaps will only increase. It’s time for finance professionals and business leaders to try and get ahead of the curve, to embrace the disruption, be a part of the transformation and take their careers on a wild digital ride.
Neil Johnson writes for ACCA’s AB magazine and its Student Accountant audience. He is editor of ACCA Careers’ advice section.
More on the ACCA programme here