Alan Nelson, Managing Director at accountingcpd.net, recently caught up with Lisa Weaver, Associate Professor Warwick Business School and accountingcpd.net author. They discussed the future of the profession and Alan asked Lisa whether she thought accountants should be worried.

Lisa: I can understand why people are worried about the future. At the university I work at, there are a lot of statistics and scaremongering stories that lead to students being concerned about even doing an accounting degree. The students wonder if they should have more technical knowledge and if they should be more IT literate. And I take quite a lot of care to say that your technical knowledge is always going to be the most important. You cannot be ‘the trusted business advisor’ if you don't have the technical knowledge to back up your advice.

Alan: What sort of statistics are the most scary?

Lisa: I read one recently in relation to the so-called fourth industrial revolution that we are going through, and it stated because of digitalization and because of the changes in I.T, the World Economic Forum predicted that 7.1 million jobs could be lost through redundancy, automation or disintermediation. Not just in accounting and not just in the professions, but that this would happen across industries within the next 5 years. So, it is very, very scary and I can see why people are concerned.

Alan: Are you worried?

Lisa: I genuinely think that these changes should be embraced. They are a massive opportunity and if anything, it frees accountants from the mundane and boring jobs. Perhaps there might be slightly fewer jobs in traditional accounting roles, but there will also be new roles that are created, which are going to be much more interesting and much more exciting, where the storytelling is adding value.

Alan: So, there are real reasons for optimism?

Lisa: It’s very exciting time to be training or working as an accountant at the moment and all of these skills that people are going to learn are totally transferable. So whether you’re in a more traditional accounting role and actually work in audit for a big firm, or whether you go the whole hog and really develop your I.T. skills, all of the skills you've got are going to be totally transferable.

Another statistic I read which I thought was really fascinating was that by 2025 Google will probably employ more audit or assurance professionals than the Big Four. Such is the demand for people with skills in information creation, information presentation, and information communication. Those are the three things that I think qualified professional accountants are extremely skilled in.

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