News & insight

What will accounting look like in 2071?

August 5, 2021

Right now, the world is changing at a dizzying pace.

Even within the past couple of years, we’ve significantly changed the way we socialise… shop… work… and even use money. (I haven’t seen a chequebook in quite a while, and many people no longer carry cash.)

But all this pales in comparison to the changes we’ve been through over the past 50 years.

Back when I started work – not 50 years ago! – there were 10 people in my team and only one computer.

It’s hard to imagine today!

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, thanks to Kreston’s 50th anniversary. What are the biggest changes we’ve seen in our working lives – and in our industry?

And intriguingly – what are the biggest changes we might expect over the next 50 years, by the time Kreston turns 100?

I’ve jotted down some of my best guesses below. And I’ve also included a condensed version of the thoughts of some of our ‘Purpose Champions’, who have been helping us articulate Kreston Global’s purpose and the difference we make in the world.

I hope you enjoy reading them!

Now for a look at the past 50 years… and a bit of futurology:

>> LIZA ROBBINS:

What is the most significant change to the accounting profession during your work-life?

First, internationalisation. When networks like Kreston were established many people were probably cynical, and dismissed their goals to serve international clients as a pipe dream and/or an unrealistic hobby-horse of the founders.

Most clients did not need international services and if they did that was the domain of the Big 4 (or Big 8 back then!).

Now the world is a global village and most organisations have some aspect of international in their work.

Then, there’s people. The hierarchies (not just in professional services) are breaking down and the old pyramid “command and control” systems are becoming obsolete.

There is a fight for talent – 50 years ago people paid to do articles with a firm in some countries. Now firms are fighting for talent, and fighting against a greater pool of competing employers. The balance of power is changing.

What do you think the most significant change is likely to be over the next 50 years?

We will see new client sectors – perhaps clients operating in the value chain of space travel?

If the global balance of power continues to move toward individuals, will might need representatives in organisations (e.g. The Elon Musk organisation) as opposed to just looking at countries. The implications of individuals becoming more powerful than countries is interesting! Would organisations like Kreston need to pay to have a representative in a business to ensure we stay in that organisation’s value chain radar?

>> SUDHIR KUMAR, Senior Partner, Kreston Menon (UAE)

What is the most significant change to the accounting profession during your work-life?

The move towards outsourcing accounting-related jobs. We’ve seen some large organisations in the UAE reduce the number of accountants in their Finance Department by as much as 90% as a result. The cost saving is phenomenal. The redundant accountants, when this first happened, had to survive by pivoting towards new businesses in the SME industry and start-ups.

What do you think the most significant change is likely to be over the next 50 years?

Cloud Accounting will become the norm. To draw a parallel in the Food & Beverage industry, Dark Kitchens or Cloud kitchens (which specialise only in deliveries – they have no storefront) are predicted to be the future. It’s predicted that leading F&B brands operating virtually out of Cloud stores/Dark stores will outnumber physical stores in 5 years…

Accountants will need to do a 100% transformation and reskilling to be part of the future – like any other professionals.

>> CHARITA CHAVLEISHVILI, HR Manager, Kreston Georgia

What is the most significant change to the accounting profession during your work-life?

There are many more young people coming into this profession.

What do you think the most significant change is likely to be over the next 50 years?

Accounting software programs will replace entry-level employees.

And analytical skills or the ability to see the big picture will be more valuable than knowing the tax code.

>> MEERA RAJAH, Partner, James Cowper Kreston (UK):

What is the most significant change to the accounting profession during your work-life?

A lot has changed during my work-life… The modern accountant is highly skilled in business management. Accounting is much more about driving commercial improvement, commercial finance and the world of targets.

Another big change is the dress code. For decades, a business suit has been required attire for professionals in finance. Indeed, some say that the thin stripes on a pinstripe suit were originally meant to represent the lines on an accounting ledger. The suit reflected seriousness and practicality. It then changed to business casual and now the policy is mostly for staff to wear what is appropriate for the job that day.

Finally, the accounting profession has been traditionally male-dominated but now the presence of women in the accounting profession is overwhelming.

What do you think the most significant change is likely to be over the next 50 years?

Perhaps new forms of regulation and continued globalisation of reporting or disclosure standards. Social and environment considerations are increasing in importance alongside economic concerns in organisations.

>> EDUARDO SOLANA, Project Manager, Transfer Pricing, Kreston BSG (Mexico):

What is the most significant change to the accounting profession during your work-life?

The ability to use technology to build closer relationships and to work more efficiently with clients and colleagues. The pandemic accelerated this process, and it has allowed us to have productive conversations with people on the other side of the world, and to produce better quality work.

What do you think the most significant change is likely to be over the next 50 years?

We’ll see an economy based on cryptocurrencies and the use of the cloud will give us a large database that will give companies better business insights. We’ll see tax authorities taking advantage of these technologies to be able to carry out better planned audits that will help combat, in real time, risky tax strategies.

And how about you? What are your thoughts on the biggest changes we’ve seen – and the ones yet to come?