Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution?

What do the steam engine, the lightbulb, the internet, the mobile phone and tractors all have in common? As significant products of the first, second and third industrial revolutions, they’ve all dramatically changed the world in which we live.

The latest era, the third industrial revolution, also known as the digital revolution, is defined by such sci-fi movie-like advances as laptops, the internet, mobile phones, video calls and social media. It will soon be overtaken by the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.

If the digital revolution brought us closer together through radical advancements in communication technology, Industry 4.0 will develop this interconnectivity through systems and machines, with robots and artificial intelligence (AI) at the forefront.

There will be few industries unaffected, and accounting and finance is no exception. ‘Advancements in technology continue to change the nature of opportunities available within finance, resulting in extremely fierce competition for the already stretched talent pool of digital skills,’ says Lee Owens, director for south-east finance at Hays Accountancy and Finance.

He adds: ‘Those accountancy professionals with IT skills are likely to be some of the most sought after by employers. Candidates with demonstrable knowledge of data, information security and general controls are highly attractive to employers, and it is these professionals that are likely to see salaries reflect the high demand for their skills.’

The modern workplace, roles, departments, business strategies and skills are currently very fluid and evolving. ‘As the roles of tomorrow are being shaped by digitalisation, so too are the skills required,’ says Matt Weston, senior managing director for Robert Half. ‘With AI taking over manual tasks susceptible to human error, more time is available for strategic, innovative and customer-focused tasks, to add value and drive the digitalisation of business. Consequently, skills such as strategic planning, problem-solving and interpersonal and communication skills are now cited as crucial for success.’

Additionally, and this is very important for those planning for a career in (future) finance, the introduction of automation and AI into work processes has impacted how hiring managers consider soft skills, with CFOs believing finance professionals need to demonstrate an openness to change, says Weston. ‘Skills such as data analysis and financial modelling, as well as softer skills such as resilience, adaptability to change and time management, will become invaluable as employees navigate an increasingly digitalised business landscape.’

As you see, the accountant of the fourth industrial revolution will be more than someone who likes numbers and is good at Excel. There is the chance to be at the forefront of this innovation, helping to shape the future of the profession and of business.

To be a professional capable of earning a higher salary, of enjoying a varied career at the cutting edge of the profession’s evolution amid the fourth industrial revolution and businesses’ ongoing change at the hands of technological innovation, you’ll require a deep mixture of skills across the professional sphere. These will include the technical skills you’ll achieve with ACCA, with employers considering such qualifications as essential, combined with IT knowledge and feeling comfortable working with, implementing and even developing the latest technology.

illustration of the internet of things

Then there is all the data that finance departments have to analyse to paint pictures of potential strategies or interconnected stories from across the business to people in different departments or to business leaders. All of this will require sharp soft skills, and these are currently what many employers claim are missing in the workforce – technical people with the ability to learn and adapt, to communicate, to lead and manage (people and time), to manage projects, people not afraid of change but excited by it.

If this sounds like you and a future you’d like to be part of, why not explore the knowledge, skills and values that make our members among the world’s most highly sought after finance professionals?

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