Global CFOs returning to fundamentals
Accounting professionals in the United States have recognized for some time the value of offering what many refer to as “high level” services to their clients. For the accounting professional and the client business, consulting regarding strategy and growth represented value for both parties – guidance for the business client and profitable service for the accountant. However, as the economy began to decline and businesses tightened their belts, accounting professionals around the world recognized the opportunity and the need to return to focusing more on client operations and not simply on strategy and growth.
A recent article on CFO.com discusses the results of a survey performed by the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), discussing how accounting professionals around the world are adjusting their approaches to accounting – adjustments at least partially fueled by global economic difficulties.
“There has been a little bit of a shift following the economic crisis. Pre-crisis there was a lot more focus around growth,” says Lyon. As the recession hit, Lyon says, global CFOs began to immediately question “What’s my cash position from day to day? What’s happening to my costs? What’s happening with my controls?”
Such anxieties may have triggered a shift back to the basics. “The CFO is a key adviser to the strategic (decision makers); that’s not in question. But there is a balance to be had in these times. That balance is around cost management and certainly managing risks,” says Lyon. “Finance as a function has been slightly brought back into focus.”
I would suggest that shifts in the approaches by accounting professionals are (at least in part) due to the various impacts of economy, technology, and globalization. There have always been different types of accounting professionals, with some focusing on management issues and others on strategy. Today’s accounting professionals must find a way to find a balance while addressing holistically the needs of the business client. This belief is also in line with the findings of the survey:
The complete finance professional 2013 summarises our thinking on why businesses need finance skills and capabilities across the entire finance value chain. We also recognise that this new environment requires finance professionals to bring a much broader range of finance skills to the table. The challenges faced by finance functions in supporting businesses are not constrained to a particular accounting or finance discipline. To strive to become world class, finance functions must excel in a broad range of capabilities, from supporting businesses to manage risk, developing effective strategies for growth, driving financial insight, continuing to maintain appropriate levels of control across the organisation as well as ensuring its statutory and regulatory responsibilities are met.
There are a lot of US accounting professionals out there who once approached their clients with a “holistic” service offering, focusing both ON and IN the business. Today, competitive pressures are driving professionals to re-engage with their clients in deeper operational roles, combining cost and cash management with guidance on growth and sustainability. It’s kind of like going back to the good old days of the full-service accounting office, and that’s a good thing for businesses.