A Conversation with… Michael Izza, Chief Executive at ICAEW

Their in-depth conversation covered some of the biggest topics in accounting today, from how the latest technology is changing the profession to what the workforce of the future is going to look like. You can watch the full interview above, and here’s a quick look at the highlights for a taste of what to expect:

The biggest issue facing accounting today

Of all the issues facing the accounting profession today, Michael believes technology is going to have far and away the biggest impact.

“The biggest issue for our members today is technology”, he told Mark. “It’s not Brexit, it’s not issues of competition in the audit market – it’s technology.”

Why does Michael think technology is going to play such a big part in profession? “Technology is going to absolutely transform every one of our member’s lives”, he explains. “Now it’s going to do that in different ways and at a different pace, but it’s coming, it’s coming fast, it’s like a tsunami and you can’t avoid it.”

Of course, Michael goes on to explain this is nothing to be afraid of – and if you’re savvy about it, it can create a huge opportunity for your firm.

But the first step is understanding just how big a part the ICAEW believe technological innovations are going to play in our industry going forward.

How accountants can be the agents of change

There’s no doubt about it: technology is going to transform the accounting profession over the coming years. As Michael explains accounting for the purchase ledger, sales ledger and inventories is going to become increasingly automated as the software available becomes more sophisticated.

Michael believes that “there’ll still be a need for accounting professionals, but there’ll be fewer clerical, compliance roles”.

To stay on the front foot of the industry and change with the times, Michael believes it’s down to accountants to be “thinking ahead so we’re the agents of change” and that the evolution of the sector is “being done by us, not to us”.

So, how can you future-proof your firm?

Michael suggests that given the role technology is going to play in the industry going forward, firms should consider “taking in people with an IT background and giving them an accountancy overlay rather than letting people come from an accountancy background and giving them the IT side”. He explains this might be the best route to the “wide and varied skillset” every firm will need in-house in the future.

He also explains that everyone within a firm needs to be on-board with implementing the latest tech, or else it’s sure to hit a roadblock along the way, whether that’s on the front line or from a management level.

Lastly, he urges senior members of accounting firms to be “sufficiently humble to recognise there might be people within their organisations that know more about technology than they do”. He recommends that they make use of the “free consultancy” they can get from tech-savvy team members that might be able to advise them on how they can improve their process with the latest software and futureproof their organisation.

How the role of accountant is going to change in the digital age

Michael believes that “the profession has got a good future ahead of it”, but accountants are going to have to adapt to a role that’s more “advisory than proprietary”.

“I wouldn’t underestimate how much of a transition we have to make in that time period from being preparers to being people who give insight and explanations of the incredible amounts of data that businesses of all shapes and sizes are producing today”, he explains.

Michaels goes on to explain that this doesn’t mean that “spreadsheets and the like are dead, but it may be that we increasingly see lots of machine learning and AI applied to a spreadsheet-type environment and accountants are just looking at the outputs.”

This signals a shift in the role of accountants from dealing with compliance to becoming invaluable business advisors through the latest tech. You can discover our advice on how to start making that shift today, take a look at our tips for improving the client experience (and income fees) with the latest technology.

Watch the video above to take a deep dive into the conversation and get an insight into the thoughts of one of the leading names in accounting.