Accountants 'at a crossroads': CIMA Ex-president

Accountants in business are running a serious risk of becoming little more than bookkeepers, according to a top management accountant.

Mike Jeans, past president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and former head of KPMG Consulting, said: ‘The power of the traditional company accountant is quickly being diminished as technology enables accounting knowledge to become widely accessible and comprehensible.’

Speaking at the World Congress of Accountants in Hong Kong, Jeans said that as a result of the convergence of information and telecommunications technology, knowledge that was once the preserve of the accountant is beginning to merge within overall corporate knowledge.

He said: ‘Recent scandals in the US and Asia have clearly demonstrated that ethical and independent accounting is fundamental to the success or failure of managing any business. As a result, the accounting profession is now at a crossroads.

‘It will either face a diminished level of responsibility and respect, relegated to little more than the bookkeeper, or the profession must embrace the opportunities that technology brings.’

Jeans said accountants must free themselves to start making real contributions to the strategic and ethical decision making in corporate boardrooms and smaller businesses.

Management accountants around the world must focus on driving business growth, while ensuring a company operates within ethical standards of corporate governance.

‘One of the main attributes of knowledge is that it can quickly become obsolete. Accountants face an additional challenge in not only keeping their technical skills up to date but in acquiring the soft skills needed to become effective business leaders and partners. This will be a difficult but vital transition,’ Jeans said.

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