By Ng Boon Yew FCCA, chair of ACCA’s Accountancy Futures Academy
Back in September 2011, ACCA launched our new global forums; a series of roundtables that bring together the best and brightest thinking on the future of the accountancy profession. Most of our forums have a specific focus – audit, small businesses, or taxation, and more – but our Accountancy Futures Academy is taking a broader view than the rest.
The academy has been set up to provide a genuinely longer-term look at the accountancy profession and global business world, helping us shape what’s coming next, rather than be shaped by it.
One of the things that’ll be dominating the thinking of the academy will be the changes taking place in the next decade or so to the way the world works. Traditional regions of power and influence are declining, while new ones are rising; but how far are things going to change in the next decade, and what will be the markets on the rise after China and its fellow BRICs? Will the BRICs (Brazil, India, Russia, and China) even live up to their billing?
The rise of the BRICs also challenges the way global governance works. If you look at today’s global governance institutions – the World Bank, the UN, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation – one of the things that’s noticeable about them is they were all (if you count the WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) founded at the beginning of the modern ‘Western’ global economy. Are these organisations and rules still going to be relevant in the 21st century?
Systems are under strain in other ways too: the Euro is having a wobble, while the prospects of a ‘Redback’ global economy are emerging that sees the Chinese Renminbi replace the Dollar as the reserve currency of choice. You could go further: in an electronic age, does money have a future as a token of exchange? What will be valuable in the future? How will it be measured?
The business world is changing too. There’s been an explosion of new ways of doing business, with all sorts of new business models emerging; what’s going to come next? The complexity of modern business also raises questions about responsibility and how that complexity can be managed. Is this a new role for the CFO? New ways of thinking about business will be needed; what will these be?
As business changes, the accountancy profession will need to change too. How will accounting evolve if new measures of value emerge? What will the rules be? Will they be driven from a Western view, or will they be driven by ideas from emerging markets? One thing that will almost certainly change is the way that accountants are trained, thanks to ever-changing learning technologies; but how will they change?
The future is always going to raise more questions than answers; it will even raise questions that we couldn’t even begin to think of now. Think about the major events that have shaped our present: the fall of the Berlin Wall; 9/11; the rise of the internet, and many more. Did people see these coming? Did people know what effect these things would have?
It’s an ambitious project, but hopefully the Accountancy Futures Academy can spark some new thinking to making the future a little bit less murky.