What Will You Be In 2013 – Safehand, Survivor, Changemaker or Buccaneer?

Richard Barrett

Despite the persistent economic malaise, this year turned out to be memorable and one that made it proud to be British. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years on the throne; Team GB won bucket loads of medals at the Olympics and ParaOlympics; Andy Murray became the first Briton to win a tennis grand slam for 76 years and Bradley Wiggins put in a faultless if somewhat unexciting ride to become the first British rider to win the Tour de France. So like 1966, when England won the World Cup, 2012 could turn out to be one of our finest, talked about for generations.

But as it creeps up on us over this holiday, 2013 looks set to be a non-event and one that may eventually be counted as just one of the years that made up the ‘missing generation’ of minimal  economic growth and high unemployment. So what should finance folk be looking to achieve to ensure they and their organizations thrive? The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants and Finance Professionals in Business  recently joined together to survey their members to identify 100 Drivers of Change for the Global Accountancy Profession, their potential impacts and 10 resulting imperatives for their members.  I can’t dig into the detail here, but this paragraph from the report summarizes their findings which few would dispute:

“Uncertainty and volatility are the new normal. The global landscape will continually be reshaped by a combination of market volatility, globalisation and innovation in a climate where shifts of wealth and power, economic uncertainty and political transitions are also occurring. These challenges are also exacerbated by rapid advances in science and technology, demographic changes and the emergence of new business models. In a shifting social and economic environment, all of these will have serious implications on businesses and the accountancy profession.”

What I like about the report is the systematic way it group the 100 drivers into core themes and implications with 5 for business in general and 5 for the profession summarized in the table below. Both Steve Player and I have been writing on how adopting the more advance approaches to planning and budgeting and some of the newer technology address these imperatives; I’ve even written on how globalization is giving rise to a backlash about corporate taxation that I suspect the finance profession will need to address in the next decade.

ACCA table for the finance profession

But where this study goes beyond most is the way it sets out the options for finance. Using the public perception of the profession as one axis and the scope of the accountant’s role as the other, they develop four scenarios for Finance based on the ways in which companies and the profession could respond to the imperatives above and the relative importance and priority they attached to them:


It is interesting that these scenarios for the future of Finance which include classifications such as ‘Buccaneer’ were developed by the profession itself and they should be applauded for publishing such a ‘warts-and-all’ analysis of how their profession is perceived. We all know colleagues who slot into each these four ideal types and although the report suggests the time is right for the profession to aspire to the Changemaker scenario and embrace an increasingly strategic opportunity, we all know many individuals who will be content with the Safehands scenario and focus on a purely technical and more traditional definition of the accountant’s role. Although it is not discussed in the report, my guess is that in order to ensure success in the coming decade, CFO’s are going to need a team made up of all four types, taking care that personalities are aligned with their responsibilities – and that – invaluable as they are for cutting through the noise and getting to the basics – the natural tendencies of the ‘Buccaneers’ is reined in now again.

The success of British cycling in 2012, with 8 gold medals at the Olympics and #1 and #2 in the Tour de France, was orchestrated by David Brailsford, who successfully manages the capabilities of his individually talented riders with the needs of his various teams, occasionally taking hard decisions, such as letting sprinter Mark Cavendish go when it became clear that his own personal goals couldn’t be satisfied within Team Sky. He was recognised as an exemplar of team management by recently being awarded the BBC Coach of the Year and I will gutted, (aka more than somewhat at disappointed), if he isn’t knighted in the New Year’s Honours list in the next few days. Seems to me glittering prizes also await those CFO’s that can build winning teams.



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