Scottish financial professionals poised to take advantage of the benefits of digital technology

Helen Brand, chief executive ACCA

ACCA chief executive tells Edinburgh conference how accountants are embracing new ways of working

SCOTTISH financial professionals are liberated to add even greater value by the advance of digital technology, according to the chief executive of the leading global accountancy body.

Speaking to the PrimeGlobal business leadership conference in Edinburgh today (Thursday 8th June) Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) told the conference that technology frees up accountants to carry out more fulfilling work.

Helen Brand said: ‘We’ve all heard it said many times that the unstoppable rise of digital applications is a threat to many jobs and roles in today’s economy. In the case of professional accountants that’s only true if you believe their skills are limited to tasks like running spreadsheets and the balancing of columns of figures.

‘AI-powered machines can carry out routine, repetitive tasks more quickly, more accurately and more cheaply than humans. But that conception of an accountant’s work is a part of history, if it was ever true at all.

‘Now, we are seeing technology liberate accountants to carry out work of higher value, with strategic importance, to serve employers and clients in a much broader sense, as leaders and experts in the changing world of business and finance.

‘This is why the accountancy profession is so important; why employers want them and need them in their businesses; and why accountants are irreplaceable.’

The chief executive of PrimeGlobal Stephen Heathcote said: ‘Our member firms are trusted business advisors who need to lead change driven by technology, working patterns, generational shifts, climate change and economic trends.

‘ACCA has incredible reach across its members and stakeholders globally, our partnership with ACCA enables our firms to learn about emerging practice and upskill their professionals for future need.  We share Helen’s view that the role of the professional accountant is an exciting one – critical to wider society and sustainable prosperity – and is needed more than ever before. We will continue to partner with ACCA to make ours the profession of the future.’

In her speech Helen Brand also praised Scottish financial professionals for the way they had embraced new ways of working. Recent ACCA research – UK Talent Trends in Finance 2023 – based on a global survey of over 8,000 finance professionals – found that the UK is one of the most advanced places in the world in high levels of remote and hybrid working with Scotland enjoying the highest level of hybrid working in the world in our survey. 

Helen Brand said: ‘The report paints a picture of a highly ambitious and mobile accountancy profession, and points to a talent crunch that makes it tougher than ever for employers to attract and keep the best talent. Over a third of UK respondents expect to move jobs in the next year, and 58% in the next two years.’

She also praised the generation entering the accountancy profession now – including those in Scotland – as ‘enterprising, digitally savvy, super-connected, ethically-motivated citizens who can drive economies to new heights of prosperity, while also tackling chronic inequalities which continue to disfigure the world, and pose a threat to long-term sustainability, as well as economic and political stability.’

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