ESG » What will the finance team of the future look like

What will the finance team of the future look like

New research shows that sustainability and technology are driving changes in the accounting and finance profession. To explore these ideas, AICPA & CIMA’s Associate Technical Director Peter Spence shares insights from the Future of Finance 2.0 research project

A significant part of the work we do at AICPA & CIMA is about looking at trends within the profession and using them to discern what the future of accounting looks like, so as to best prepare our members to thrive within it.

This is the rationale behind our Future of Finance 2.0 project, of which we have just released the latest iteration. This paper highlights and explores what I think is the most significant long-term trend which is currently reshaping the accounting and finance profession, and it essentially relates to mindset.

In the past, it would be fair to characterise our profession as being quite rigid and rules based. This is not intended to be derogatory, it is simply a reflection of the work we did and the career paths we followed to do it. What we are seeing today, and will see more of in the future, is a shift towards a more expansive mindset, with value-creation at its heart.

Our work will incorporate a wider range of responsibilities, including but not limited to being the stewards of sustainability data and strategy and working with colleagues in all parts of the of organisations we serve to drive efficiency, productivity and sustainable value creation.


Sustainability is one of the key drivers of change within the profession, but it is important to understand that this is not just a response to regulatory changes which require us to present the data. While these are obviously important, it is important to look beyond this, and to apply the value creation mindset I have mentioned, because this is where the opportunities are.

Forward thinking organisations are not approaching this in terms of “we have to report”. They are looking at how their business models can adapt to produce truly sustainable growth, because that is where competitive advantage will be found.

Now clearly, that is not a description of the majority of workplaces at the moment, but you can see evidence of the direction of travel in our survey results. We found that 48% of accounting and finance professionals are currently measuring the impact of sustainable initiatives and only 45% say that they are currently measuring the performance of these initiatives. That is a significant proportion, and the fact that more and more companies are looking at the performance of these initiatives shows you where we are heading.

Business partnering is the way of the future

Another big change our research picked up was the increasing move towards the business partnering model. Something which struck me as very significant was the difference in attitudes towards the future we found among the professionals we surveyed. 60% of them said they identify as finance business partners, and 84% of those are extremely optimistic about the future of the profession. Of the 40% who say they don’t identify as finance business partners, only 15% said they are optimistic about the future of the profession. I think that is a pretty good indication of where our profession is heading, so I strongly recommend you take that into account in your career planning.

To make the most of this trend, the accountants of the future will need the ability to use data and analytics combined with business acumen, so they can improve strategic decision-making and drive business performance within their organisations.

Overall the challenge for the profession which our research identified is the need to adapt to the requirements of sustainable business practice while exploiting the possibilities of new technology. To succeed we will have to adopt a multi-capital perspective of value while learning to work across organisational boundaries. If we can achieve this, we can look forward to a bright future. Demand for data-driven decision-making and sustainable business models is only going to grow, so we can be confident that the need for strategic value creating finance teams will make us a valuable partner in every organisation in the years to come.

Was this article helpful?

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to get your daily business insights