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#LeaderTalk: Helen Brand, CEO, ACCA Global talks about qualities, skills, and values to take lead in a highly disrupted world

Helen Brand talks about the tech-enabled change that is upon us and where do professional accountants stand in this – highlighting the skills, values that are required. She also touches upon diverse areas such as the future organization, learnability and leading in a highly disrupted business environment. She signs off by adding a word of advice for parents which will help them to guide their children to be future-ready.

Helen Brand, Chief Executive at ACCA

 

  1. In what ways will “work” change in this decade? It has already changed significantly in the last few years and as digital propagates, what are some of the major shifts that you foresee?

The changes that we continue to see are on multiple fronts. They extend tothe way we work, collaborate, empower, channel resources and even the way we have begun to understand customers’ needs. A huge amount of data is available today and when put through Analytics, we can get richer insights that were not previously possible. And, we can do all this at great speed and with heightenedefficiency.

There’s no escaping digital transformation due to a host of factors such as demographic shifts, the complexity of the regulatory environment, globalization, even reverse-globalizationthat we are experiencing in pockets. And nowven pandemics. All this has led to a massive change in expectations from  individuals and the way they think about careers. As a whole, societies have been impacted too and ustainability remains a major concern.

 

  1. What are the skills and competencies that one needs in this decade to excel? Are these skills undergoing change themselves?

ACCA, as the global body for professional accountants, will continue to ensure that the highest standards are adhered to. Naturally, it calls for a very high focus on building technical skills and ethics. This is what will drive trust and confidencewithout which future businesses will not be sustainable.

Emotional intelligence and creativity are two big asks as well. Perhaps we are yet to realize their true potential. When combined with strong analytical skills, they will provide the right bulwark for future professionals.

Professionals will also be required to have a long-term visionand be able to appreciate the bigger picture in its entirety.

 

  1. What do you foresee as the future organizations’ structure given the dynamic changes shaping the workplace?

Agile ways of working with flatter organisation structures are becoming the new normal. The command & control structures of an earlier era will dimish – and may disappear altogether.

 

  1. Given that skills become obsolete very quickly, what in your opinion is the best way to stay relevant in today’s dynamic and competitive work environment?

As leaders keep a check on the pulse of the business, an outside-in approach is crucial. Tunnel vision is not going to work any longer. In relation to this, greater agility is required to respond to change – this includes learning and unlearning.

 

  1. What are the broad areas of career opportunities in which individuals may develop their future growth and ambitions?

The role of the professional accountant in the future falls into five broadareas:

  • Assurance adovates. Coveringaudit, risk management, regulatory compliance but also wider assurance over business activities.
  • Business Transformers. Especially helping small enterprises to transform in an agile manner and how can they be served better.
  • Data Navigators. Professional accountants will have a leading role to play in helping bsuinesses to navigate through a vast sea of data.
  • Digital Playmakers. How digital technology will be applied in strategy and leveraged across an organisation. This will will need to embrace talent as well,especially growing the next generation of professionals.
  • Sustainability Trailblazers. They will have to deal with many issues such as climate change, managing the expectations of investors boards, working alongside governments and the community at large, to provide a broader picture of an organisation’s impact and value.

 

  1. How is learning evolving and do you think continual skills transformation holds significant implications for how we learn?

Learning has to be a continuous process. And, technology allows us to learn multiple things at one time. We must leverage it to the hilt. The focus today is on improving digital content that can be pushed out continuously,

 

  1. Re-looking Finance & Accounting profession in an age where ethics come at a premium? How important is ethics in this digital age?

Adherence to the highest codes of conduct is pivotal to modern business. In the digital era, loss of trust and confidence will have disastrous –  even irredeemable – consequences –. The CFO is the ethical guardian of the organization and will need to balance expectations and do the right thing in the right way. And, the ethical choices will be many.

 

  1. What advice do you have for parents? Which are the skills young people should develop to stay relevant?

Parents need to trust their children. Let them know how important it is to follow their dreams. They have access to better learning tools and experimentation techniques, so allow them to explore. The fundamental blocks to do with finance, ethics, leadership, direction-setting, creativity, and vision will be invaluable to a career in professional accountancy but are also widely relevant to any path in businessesYour leadership mantra, please? And future pivots for your business?

One has to be true to oneself and there’s no point trying to be someone you are not. There is no value in imitating the attributes and characters of others – you need instead to to bring the best of what you are to your rolse as a leader. It’s that difference that creates value and strength.Being true to oneself is primary.

In terms of the future, defining and reinforcing the purpose of an organization will become more important, both in terms of will continue to motivating its workforce and inspiring stakeholders. So for ACCA – and indeed everything other organization – it’s about showing the positive contribution you make to the world.

 

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