ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
Diversity’s about how their companies think, how their processes work, and how they manage their human capital. It’s about getting the most out of your business, taking advantage of creative tension, making sure that the way you do business doesn’t miss out on the talent you have
—Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA

It’s about much more than looking different; it’s about thinking different

Finance teams in business need to embrace diversity if they are to tackle modern business problems, according to a new ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) report.

The report, ‘Building a better business through finance diversity’ identifies five key steps for businesses to take to harness diversity within their finance teams to give them a cutting edge in a competitive business world.

‘Diversity is a word often thrown around in business without much thought,’ says Jamie Lyon, ACCA’s head of corporate sector. ‘It’s too often seen as a presentational device: what does our company look like, is the question that’s asked. Diversity isn’t about that at all.

'Our research shows that the top companies take a broader perspective. Diversity’s about how their companies think, how their processes work, and how they manage their human capital. It’s about getting the most out of your business, taking advantage of creative tension, making sure that the way you do business doesn’t miss out on the talent you have.

‘The modern finance team sits at the heart of businesses around the world, and is under pressure more than ever before to get results. Manage the diversity of your finance team successfully, and you’ve given your business an excellent tool for competing in a globalised, dynamic business world.’

The report looks at the experiences of some of the world’s leading companies, including IBM and GE Healthcare China, and makes the following recommendations for creating a successful, diverse finance function:

  1. Understand cultural differences. These really matter. You may have a team that looks different, which looks good in your CSR reports, but your team is consequently going to think and work differently too. For companies expanding overseas, new markets bring their own customs, culture, regulatory environments, and governance standards. Get to grips with each market, and consider how to integrate working practices into your existing corporate model.
  2. Diversity starts with recruitment. By bringing in individuals from different backgrounds, sectors, experiences, and careers, finance leaders can bring a mix of different skills to their team. Working effectively with HR is crucial and recruitment policies must be effective and engaging.
  3. Nurture diversity where it doesn’t already exist. A wide range of experiences and perspectives are needed to develop the finance leaders of the future: it’s no longer the corporate career ladder, but the corporate career lattice. Managers from developed markets should be given the opportunity to spend time in emerging markets and vice versa. Experience outside the finance function is crucial and a commercial role can be valuable in developing business experience and awareness. Job rotations might meet resistance from managers who don’t want to lose good staff; support from the top is vital to ensure job rotation becomes part of a business’ DNA.
  4. Embrace open ways of working. Finance leaders that promote a diversity of thinking, and encourage their teams to express different views, will be better able to identify risks and opportunities. Allowing time for a constructive debate means it might take longer to reach decisions, but decisions are likely to be better for it
  5. Manage the tension between standardisation and diversity. Many companies have established regional shared-service centres – at the expense of in-country operations – to standardise procedures and capture economies of scale. This drive for standardisation needs to be balanced with the diversity of local experience and knowledge from different backgrounds. Finance leaders need to think carefully about the right global/local balance for an optimal finance function.

- Ends - 

For more information, please contact:

Alana Sinnen, ACCA Newsroom
+ 44 (0) 207 059 5807
+44 (0) 7715 812120

Nick Cosgrove, ACCA Newsroom

+44 (0)20 7059 5989
+44 (0)7963 496144

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5759
+44 (0)7725 498654

Notes to Editors

  1. Read the report by clicking on the link in the 'Related Links' section to the left of this article
  2. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer 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. 
  3. We support our 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  4. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.