by Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, Chief Executive — Management Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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CFOs must champion transformation and a digital mindset in their teams

Andrew Harding, Chief Executive of Management Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, shares insights about the future of finance, the impact of new technologies and the demands on CFOs.


Technological advancements have brought us to uncharted territory – changes are happening at a rate many professionals are struggling to keep pace with and there is uncertainty around how these changes will affect the finance industry as a whole. There are, however, two things we know for certain: if business leaders don’t keep pace with the rate of change they will, without doubt, be left behind; and success will come from embracing the changes technology will bring to the finance sector and all roles, including CFOs.


We spent more than 18 months carrying out in-depth research that involved talking to businesses from all over the world – more than 2,000 public and private organisations in 150 countries – through face-to-face interviews, roundtables and surveys. The goal was to develop a full picture of the needs of employers and the role of finance professionals, and how it is changing in a digital world. We also undertook additional research with partners such as Oracle Plc. our report, Agile Finance Unleashed, looked into how CFOs and finance leaders use technology to innovate and transform their finance functions and create value for their business. The research showed 90 per cent of senior finance leaders feel their teams don’t have the skills to support enterprise digital transformation. Such a high figure may seem like a shock but, in reality, it can be seen in the number of people struggling to keep pace with the changes brought about by new technologies – in 2018 only a third had proactively participated in training to develop digital competencies in the last 12 months. Ultimately, what this tells us is that for finance professionals to be successful, they have to embrace an agile mindset and apply the learn, unlearn and relearn approach to their professional development – passing a professional exam and going on the occasional course every five or so years is no longer enough.


The Agile Finance Unleashed research also looked into how the attitude of finance leaders to embracing transformation and artificial intelligence allows them to exceed their expected performance targets. It showed that 46 per cent of digital finance leaders achieved positive growth, versus 29 per cent of finance leaders who aren’t digitally savvy. These statistics tell us there is undoubtedly a huge untapped growth potential that businesses can access to get ahead of the curve and achieve sustainable success. But, to make the most of it, businesses and finance leaders need to give their finance teams the tools to support better corporate decision-making and value creation. A paucity of skills and low levels of investment in learning opportunities will eventually create a workforce that struggles to help employers reach goals or understand how to seize opportunities to create value.  


To help fill the skills gap and drive a future-ready workforce and profession that can withstand technological changes and advancements, we used all our recent research to completely revise the CIMA professional qualification, CGMA competency framework and CPD. This will help our students, members and other finance professionals to develop a digital mindset.


But, if professionals need to continually invest in themselves and make sure their skills are always current, the responsibility can’t lie with them alone. There needs to be a wholesale change towards the value of lifelong learning and the value of being able to learn, unlearn and relearn. To help their teams succeed leaders should clearly identify the new skills and competencies they need them to have and encourage them to develop, be that through professional qualifications such as ours, or through learning resources.

More direction can be found in our capstone research paper: Re-inventing finance for a digital world

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