Marta Rejman ACCA discusses her passion for Shared Service Operations, and the ways in which technology will transform the future role of the accountant.
Why did you decide to become an accountant?
It was a very special moment in the history of Europe and Poland - it was shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the market economy was building, and foreign investors were entering the country. I believed that accounting and finance would give me tangible knowledge and a solid start to my career.
After completing my Master's Degree in Economics, I decided to take the ACCA exams. ACCA qualifications are recognised by international corporations as guaranteeing high-level technical knowledge, professionalism and ethical behaviour, and they gave me an advantage against other finance specialists on the market.
What are the challenges you've experienced in your career to date?
The first challenge is always to build the right career path. It is usually a combination of your own effort and the options that appear in your professional life. My goal for the first 10 years of my career was to get to the position of CFO. It took me six different positions and nine and a half years to get there. Finally I needed to make the decision to work abroad to fulfil my goal.
I faced another challenge in the financial crisis of 2008/2009. There were strong cuts in business activity, resulting in dramatic savings, and several branch closures accompanied by heavy staff optimisation actions. I needed to redefine my career. I joined JLL and took on the challenge of heading the Shared Service Operation.
The new role brought a whole new spectrum of challenges. The Shared Service Operation is a fast growing and prosperous environment which required an efficient and flexible engine to support it.
What does being a Council member mean to you?
It is a unique opportunity to actively participate in shaping the accountancy profession. It gives me the chance to contribute to the development of one of the biggest and most successful accountancy organisations. I can influence its actions and priorities to ensure the value proposition is delivered to all members.
It is, however, a challenge to speak in the name of such a diverse constituency and try to fulfil the needs of all its members. I make decisions based on my own experience and perspective from my region. However, I also try to be open to different opinions from other parts of the world, and to listen to and learn from other Council members.
I am especially happy to see ACCA responding to the digital transformation of finance with new GBS qualifications directed at Shared Service Operations (SSOs) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), flexibility with computer-based examination sessions and CPD offers.
I am impressed with the number of market studies that ACCA undertakes, researching technical developments, exploring the future of finance talents, looking at changes to the finance function including finance transformation based on SSOs/BPOs - all of these studies allow us to properly respond to the needs of current and future accountants.
During my term, I will concentrate on representing accountants in business and sharing the value of my experience in Shared Services Operations. I will also capitalise on my knowledge of the profession that I gained in my previous position as the ACCA representative on the Board of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
What are the biggest issues facing the profession now, and in five and in 10 years' time?
There is still a lack of convergence in accounting standards. IFRS and US GAAP are often used in addition to a country's national standards. Europe is very much driven by national interests, and has different tax and regulatory systems. The audit function is attracting a lot of attention, with audit rotation and additional services as key items on the agenda. Corporate responsibility is gaining importance, together with development of integrated reporting. All of this will remain on the agenda in the next years.
In addition, experts expect a substantial increase in the amount of data being processed. Advanced technology solutions will have to be applied to manage the information flow and use it in a logical way during the decision process. Data mining and predictive analytics will become a hot topic - accountants and auditors will have to manoeuvre through the data to draw conclusions and provide appropriate support.
The transformation of the finance function through the use of outsourcing solutions will continue to redefine the role of CFOs, expecting them to move further into the role of business partner.
Generation Y is already redefining our way of working, demanding flexible working hours and choice of work location. They value work-life balance and expect employers to be socially responsible.
The next decade will bring further diversity to the workforce as we see the effect of immigration driven by conflicts, growth in developing countries and, most of all, the result of technological changes and mobile working. The global supply chain will support the use of virtual currency.
Further on, as more simple tasks are replaced with technology and economic growth in developing countries continues, the profession may experience a shortage of qualified accountants and face a challenge in attracting talent. The current model of studying and the topics that are lectured may not be appropriate for the technology era. Mathematical modelling, robotics and computer programming may be required for accountants to understand the logic of the tools they will be using.
What's the biggest misconception about the work that you do?
The belief that the work of an accountant is boring and repetitive, based on artificial rules disconnected from business reality, and that it gives few growth and development opportunities.
Shared Service Operations especially are seen as 'factories' with a number of clerks providing standard system input without proper knowledge and understanding of their jobs, their impact on other finance functions and the business. There is a misconception that fragmented processes give no real career perspective and close people out in their small functions.
The reality is, however, that in order to provide proper quality of service, and to achieve process and cost efficiency, SSOs must understand client-specific operations, finance processes and business goals. Each day brings new cases that require an immediate solution, and a large number of tasks that need to be prioritised. The key to success is close cooperation with the client and an understanding of its business priorities.
Developments in technology will move those organisations up the value chain and so provide even more opportunities for ambitious individuals.
The accumulation of finance functions in one location creates a unique opportunity for employees to move between them and gain varied experience that builds towards a broader career in financial controlling, analysis, or even local or regional CFO positions.
Why do you continue to be an ACCA member?
I see huge value in ACCA membership. It gives me access to the best quality training, and provides insights into economic developments all over the world and the newest trends influencing my professional life and career.
As a global organisation, ACCA has access to the best experts, current market trends and specifics of every region. It involves us in discussions and advocates solutions.
ACCA provides support for both members and employers on its career pages and through recognised employer initiative.
In my current position on the Council, and previously as the ACCA representative on the IFAC Board, I am pleased to contribute to and co-operate with ACCA, and to interact with other members of the accounting profession.