PwC, ACCA report reveals traditional finance leader role may not exist in future

18 December, 2019

A new report released in Ireland reveals that Irish business leaders believe that the traditional role of the finance leader will no longer exist in the future. It also explores the finding that Irish finance functions are less advanced compared to their global counterparts but are expected to catch up, and that Irish businesses believe data analytics will change the future role of finance leaders.

These are among the key findings in Finance: a journey to the future, a PwC and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants report. It benchmarks the development and role of the finance function of the future. Over 1,100 ACCA members and PwC clients worldwide, including in Ireland - all leading finance professionals - participated in the worldwide survey, which also involved a series of roundtables about the future of finance.

The Dubai skyline at dawn.

It finds that four out of ten Irish business leaders are of the view that the traditional role of finance leader will no longer exist in the years ahead. Designing the future finance function needs strong management to lead the significant change that is required.  

The survey suggests that Irish finance functions are currently less advanced than their global counterparts. For example, real-time decisions are already a reality for a third of global respondents compared to just a fifth in Ireland. Irish finance functions are also currently less advanced when it comes to forward looking insights and access to trusted data. There is also more work to be done in Ireland on the future structure of the finance function.  

But the survey reveals that plans are afoot in Ireland to deal with the significant changes ahead: for example two-thirds of respondents said their finance teams plan to spend most of their time on generating forward looking insights within the next three years compared to 47% globally.  

Jens Gladikowski, Director, PwC Consulting, said: “The survey finds that the finance function needs to develop its agility in order to support the business develop long-term strategies for profitable and sustainability growth. While not losing focus on cost and efficiency, it must recognise that improvements to the way finance operates internally will have much less impact than solving business problems and delivering increased value to stakeholders.”

Other key findings in Ireland include:

91% of Irish respondents agreed that the role of finance will change within the next three years (Global: 88%).  Of these, 33% believe the change during this time period will be significant (Global: 26%).  

  • Many see the evolution of the role of finance leader as focusing on business performance and strategy rather than historic financial reporting.  Four out of ten Irish respondents said that the traditional role of the finance leader will no longer exist in the future (Global: 50%). 22% in Ireland said the role won’t exist within the next three years (Global: 26%).
  • There will be less emphasis on historical reporting and more on finding patterns informing future decisions.  67% of Irish respondents said that their finance teams expect to spend most of their time generating forward looking insights in the next three years (Global: 47%).  22% say this is happening already (Global: 25%).
  • Key to strategic success is that finance skills will be used in a wider context across the organisation. Just 18% of Irish respondents expect the structure of their finance function to be virtual in the next three years (Global: 36%). 
  • By increasingly supporting forward looking decisions, new roles and skills will be needed in the finance function.  50% of Irish respondents confirmed the need for these skills in the next three years (Global: 45%). 
  • Real time, customer-centric decisions are becoming a reality with  67% of Irish respondents seeing this as an imminent requirement (Global: 66%).  Of this, over a fifth (22%) say this is happening already (Global: 34%). 
  • The need for trusted and accessible data that meets customers’ needs will be critical.  Half (51%) of Irish respondents said that their trusted data will be open and accessible within the next three years (Global: 56%).  Of this just 20% say that this is happening already (Global: 29%). 

Commenting on the report, Clive Webb, Professional Insights Manager with the ACCA, said: “The results show that finance is changing at a rapid pace, and this is both a challenge and an opportunity. Interestingly, the biggest barrier to this change is leadership mindset - alongside getting to grips with the technology that now pervades our working lives. It’s knowledge of this technology that’s key for the future -leaders need to keep up to speed on trends.”

Jens Gladikowski, Director, PwC Consulting, added: “In a rapidly changing market, the research highlights that Irish finance functions have some work to do to catch up with their global counterparts in terms of the key attributes required to support the business strategically. There is a real opportunity for finance to develop a more proactive advisory function where technology is applied to minimise the operational finance workload enabling the finance function drive business performance.”


Notes to editors:

The research was undertaken during Summer 2019 having 1,100 leading global finance professionals, including 55 in Ireland.

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 

ACCA supports its 219,000 members and 527,000 students (including affiliates) in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 110 offices and centres and 7,571 Approved Employers worldwide, and 328 approved learning providers who provide high standards of learning and development.

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Contact us

Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 6547

Jens Gladikowski

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8455

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