Finance Teams’ Roles Continue to Expand: AICPA Survey

The responsibilities of the CFO and other finance professionals have moved way beyond just corporate accounting and financial reporting. Finance teams must now be well-versed in such areas as strategic business planning, IT development, and cybersecurity, according to the results of a new survey from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Of the more than 1,200 CEOs, CFOs, and other senior-level Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMAs) who were polled, 85 percent noted the roles of their finance teams have expanded, particularly in the following five areas:

  • Strategic business planning (58 percent)
  • IT development and cybersecurity (55 percent)
  • Management and corporate governance (46 percent)
  • Legal and compliance (44 percent)
  • Human resources (40 percent)

Strategic business planning (69 percent) was identified as the top skill CGMAs expected to be essential to perform their roles in the next one to three years. Other key skills include change management (41 percent) and communications (38 percent).

These skills were consistent with those identified in a report last September from the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Of the managements skills current CFOs believe will be of most value to future finance leaders, 61 percent said leadership, followed by communications (60 percent), strategic thinking (53 percent), and change management (24 percent).

The AICPA survey also asked CGMAs to gauge the change in the level of business complexity over the last three years, given the US and global economic and regulatory environment as reference points. Not surprisingly 93 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing more complexity. Specifically, 30 percent reported experiencing significantly more complexity, 38 percent said they had seen a moderate increase in complexity, and 25 percent noted they’ve seen at least some increase. Less than one percent reported they had experienced less complexity.

And that complexity in the business environment is not expected to improve anytime soon. Ninety-four percent of CGMAs said that business complexity will increase in the next three years. Of those, 72 percent predicted a moderate or significant increase in complexity. Five percent of CGMAs said business complexity will not change in the next three years, and less than 1 percent expected complexity to decrease during that time frame.

Arlene Thomas, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president of management accounting and global markets for the AICPA, said the increase in business complexity has become the new norm, and operations are having to adapt and manage to the rapid change.

“As a result, organizations are calling upon management accountants to play a larger role than ever before,” she said in a written statement. “By utilizing a skill set that encompasses the strategic understanding to drive business and the financial understanding to mitigate risk and ensure compliance, CGMAs are uniquely positioned to help their organizations meet the challenges of a rapidly changing environment.”

The AICPA and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants recently launched a competency framework to help management accountants assess their current competency level and provide insight on steps they can take to expand their skills while meeting their commitment to lifelong learning. The framework is available to any finance professional, employer, or educator to benchmark their team’s capability, create job profiles, or design curriculum.

About the survey:
The survey was conducted from May 13 to 29, 2014, and included 1,234 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as CEO, CFO, or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Related article:

ACCA/IMA Report Reveals Ten Key Skills for Future CFOs

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