Accountants in Management - a Globally Changing Role

Article excerpt

Recent international publications stress an increasing need for accountants in management to provide a broad array of value-adding services. Professional education and development must rise to the occasion.

Opportunities are increasing for professional accountants in management who have prepared themselves to assume expanded responsibilities employing their information management and strategic financial management skills. The expanded role: to participate proactively in the change process and in decision-making on a wide range of issues. Clearly evident in North America, the role is becoming a world-wide occurrence driven by globalization of both markets and competition.

At the annual conference of the Confederation of Asian-Pacific Accountants (CAPA) in October, 1996, Ken Biggs, a Society member, presented a paper on this subject. Ken is currently Chair of the Financial and Management Accounting Committee (FMAC) of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). Two recent publications of FMAC have gathered the views of educators and CFOs around the world about future changes in the role of management accounting and the CFO. The full text of this informative paper is on the CAPA Web site at www.jaring.my/capa and is available on request by phoning SMAC's research department.

The paper discusses the contribution of the CFO and his/her staff in the design and development of information networks that accommodate the trend to a delayered, empowered workforce. These networks should also expand the information resource to include external intelligence, focus on all elements of a risk management program, and comprehensively develop the information needed to measure and manage human resources.

IFAC has just released some current membership statistics on the nearly 140 professional accounting bodies it represents. Of the 1.9 million accountants worldwide, only 35% are in public practice; the remaining 65% are, for the most part, accountants in business. The growth in the portion representing accountants in business will have a profound influence on the future shape of the profession. One can expect a growing demand for accountants in management to contribute to such key considerations as the strategic direction for the enterprise and the formulation of goals and plans to build economic value.

About 40 per cent of Society members indicated, in a 1993 national survey, that they were already involved in the strategic decision-making process, and more than half of their employers said they expected that the CMAs they employ would be more involved in this area in the future. An update of this survey in 1995 indicated CMA participation in decision-making had indeed increased. …