Today our societies are facing significant challenges. These challenges are also unprecedented opportunities for the profession to reimagine its role and articulate its higher aspiration. Accountants need to channel their experience and knowledge to work with others towards social innovation, as they did in the past. Double-entry bookkeeping was an invention to solve economic needs and gave birth to modern capitalism. Audit, as a service, was designed to build trustworthy relationships between investors and companies. Accountancy can be a supporting and enabling framework to solve social challenges and the profession should reach out to wider stakeholder groups to understand and match their needs and wants.
Trust in business and institutions is at its lowest ebb. Bruised by a series of crises and conflicts, and inhibited by endless discussions about overregulation and tightening standards, the profession is at a crossroads. Accountancy can be part of the solution to the problems society and businesses are facing and it’s about time it put itself in the driver’s seat. The profession should determine its own fate, take responsibility to restore public trust in business and embark on a new journey towards a more successful and fairer society.
The nineteenth century organisational strategy was to innovate and then build barriers to entry. Now, organisations around the world face growing pressures from more demanding users, overstretched resources and increasing social complexity and diversity. Cross-organisational collaboration will help the development of better and more responsive services, improve the spread and speed of their market penetration and enhance trust in business. For audit to work in the public interest, we need innovators, thinkers and practitioners from across the profession to actively engage with wider stakeholders and create meaningful solutions together. The profession started as a network of highly trusted individuals and it has an opportunity to reinvent itself as a positive driver of change for the benefit of the public and to rebuild its professional capital.
A vibrant and socially relevant profession inspires and attracts talented people who are searching for meaning and purpose. Therefore, modern society seeks professionals of the future to have a wider set of skills and a much broader mix of abilities – intellectual curiosity, creative flexibility, moral sensitivity and independence of mind. Aligning personal motivation with professional aspiration is important in rethinking the role of professionals in society. We will foster a proactive ethos to motivate and encourage people to take the initiative and show leadership in shaping the future of their profession.
In times of unprecedented social, economic and technological change, we are looking at the society of tomorrow to design the profession of the next generation. One of the core challenges is to embrace vulnerability and recognise where the profession falls short and to transform it so it can lead twenty-first century business and society.
Fresh perspectives and radical thinking will help in understanding issues and in creating solutions in collaboration with communities, businesses and the wider society. We need to unlock social and organisational innovation and to foster increased agility, greater responsiveness to change and learn to create more resilient and adaptable business structures. We should expect to see greater variety and more sense of purpose in the organisational forms of the future. The bigger shifts – real-time and big data, role of experience and service design, human factors and psychology – will change the game of audit and accounting and we should use these to think ahead together.