ACCA publishes research paper exploring the impact of Integrated Reporting on the finance profession

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13 Mar, 2014

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has published a research paper that explores the possible impacts that Integrated Reporting (<IR>) may have on the role of the finance professional.

Exploring a number of possible scenarios, the research paper, ‘Accountants and Strategic Leadership’, indicates that <IR> “has the potential to bring about transformational changes” and highlights that the future role of the finance professional will be dependent upon how the profession responds to <IR>. 

To help explore the range of possible outcomes, the research paper develops two grids with four generic scenarios based upon the role of the finance professional (either entrepreneurs or gatekeepers) and the scope of the accountant’s role within their organisation (the finance function contributes to <IR> or the finance function owns and leads <IR>).  The four possible scenarios identified for the future role of the finance professional are: 

Changemaker.  In this scenario, many in the profession have succeeded in balancing the ownership and lead of their business’s <IR> and taking a more entrepreneurial stance within the firm. The need to ensure sound and ethical practice has been maintained in the gradual assumption of a wider remit by the CFO and accountancy function. There is widespread acknowledgement among stakeholders that the profession has succeeded in providing rigorous integrated reports while enabling the entrepreneurial spirit to flourish. Finance professionals are able, therefore, to build on their reputation as a trusted pair of hands to develop greater influence across their organisations and external stakeholders.

Embedded accountant.  Here finance is seen as a business partner and spends a lot of time ‘in the business’. A close alignment exists with the business’s strategy function to ensure that financial resources are optimally aligned with strategic priorities. Accountants are keen to own corporate reporting while acquiring new skills that enhance their report-writing capability to ‘tell a story’. Accountants build key relationships and partnerships in their business to ensure appropriate content can be identified for corporate reporting. At the same time, accountants are leading the debate at executive-level on the developments in corporate reporting.

Coerced accountant.  Here many accountants deliberately maintain a focus on the largely technical elements of the role while seeking to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements of the law, but are ‘coerced’ to play a more central role. In this scenario, accountants are the ‘fallback’ option when there is no one in the organisation to take the lead and they are obliged to take this role.   

Reluctant accountant.  In this scenario accountants are ‘followers’. Change is not embraced and the accountant is devoted to provide outputs according to prescriptive guidelines/requirements. In this approach, accountants make the minimum change necessary to meet the new requirements. Accountants have no qualms for <IR> to be owned outside of finance and only want to contribute ‘their bit’ to the report. Accountants in this situation are only making the necessary adjustments to meet the financial capital aspects of <IR> and they take a passive role while other parts of their business take the lead in their organisation’s <IR> efforts. 

The ACCA believe that the finance profession “needs to realign itself and that accountants should aspire to be changemakers”.  Although recognising that there is a risk that the finance function may lose its influence over corporate reporting “as a consequence of the increased role of other actors in the production of financial statements compliant with <IR> guidelines”, the ACCA consider that <IR> is an opportunity for the profession to lead the initiative and show strategic leadership in corporate reporting. 

Further impacts of <IR>, such as the changing role of internal auditors and how the provision of assurance may need to develop are also highlighted in the research paper.     

The full research paper can be obtained from the ACCA website.

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