Special feature (part 3): Developing your soft skills to stay relevant as a CA
Professional institutions are researching new competencies that will change their qualification, writes Kate Ferreira.
It’s abundantly clear that experts agree that developing our soft skills and embracing continuous learning will be a key factor for accountants to remain relevant. And for those still coming up through their training, these requirements means a vastly different curriculum and methodology.
Lindsay Taylor is the marketing manager (brand) for the South African chapter of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA SA). She says:
“The world is changing fast - and so is finance. That’s why we undertook a major research project called ‘Professional accountants – the future’ to update the ACCA qualification by working together with our members, employers and partners around the world. As a result, we made significant changes to our qualification.”
These included the addition of a “strategic professional level” (case study-based), an ethics and professional skills module, and Computer-based exams for Applied Skills exams that use realistic workplace technology, like spreadsheets and word processing.
“We want to ensure our trainees are work-ready and able to use the right blend of technical ethical and professional skills in their careers from day one – these are the skills that employers tell us they vitally need from newly qualified professionals,” she says.
Their research also led directly to the development of a set of seven competencies that ACCA consider essential to success:
- Technical and ethical competencies (TEQ): The skills and abilities to perform activities consistently to a defined standard. Often based on a professional qualification.
- Intelligence (IQ): The ability to acquire and use knowledge: thinking, reasoning and solving problems.
- Creativity (CQ): The ability to use existing knowledge in a new situation, to make connections, explore potential outcomes, and generate new ideas.
- Digital quotient (DQ): The awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices, strategies and culture.
- Emotional intelligence (EQ): The ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them.
- Vision (VQ): The ability to predict future trends accurately by extrapolating existing trends and facts, and filling the gaps by thinking innovatively.
- Experience (XQ): The ability and skills to understand customer expectations, meet desired outcomes and create value.
In terms of EQ (Competency number 5 from above), ACCA has also released a report called “Emotional quotient in a digital age” which explores the relevance and need for emotional intelligence in developing the accountancy profession. Despite accounting’s reputation as a relatively unemotional discipline, ACCA emphasise that such professionals need a “rounded set of skills that go beyond technical knowledge” in order to succeed. Developing one’s EQ involves adopting a growth mindset, pursuing self-knowledge, opening up to “perspective-taking”, and employing both empathy and influence. The ability to relate to people, partner with them, motivate them, manage them, and earn the trust of clients or senior management, EQ – they argue – will be of vital importance in future.
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) has also heeded the call to relook at the profession’s critical competencies.
Together with the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), SAICA commissioned research from the University of Pretoria (UP), entitled ‘CA2025’.
The research will extract insight from a broad range of participants including the Auditor General South Africa (AGSA), accounting firms (“from the larger ones right down to the small ones”), “regulators, professional bodies, CFOs of top JSE listed companies, portfolio asset managers and futurists”. The research is still ongoing, and is expected to be concluded this year.
Finance professionals are actively investing into digital tools