Jennifer Cheung, Chairman of the Professional Accountants in Business Committee, on how the framework can help CPAs in business and employers adapt to the evolving role of finance functions
As a professional accountant in business (PAIB) for over 20 years, I’ve experienced the profession’s changing roles and responsibilities. While in the past, accounting professionals were responsible for reporting and taxation matters – their roles have expanded. We are now leaders and drivers of success, working across departments and strategically leading our organizations.
This is why the Institute’s PAIB Committee began work on the new Professional Development Framework for PAIBs. All accountants need to ensure they both have and maintain the skills and professional competences to anticipate and adapt to changes in order to succeed.
This framework was developed with reference to material from the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), to be a useful guide for the PAIB community. It is intended to help them shape their careers, realize their objectives and take control of their learning to achieve their goals. The framework provides a functional and accessible guide to the competencies – such as prerequisite knowledge, skills, attitude, practices and standards of behaviour – necessary for PAIBs to perform both current and desired roles.
One of the Institute’s core duties is to provide members with continuing professional development (CPD) programmes and other support they need, and this framework is one way that the Institute’s PAIB Committee assists PAIBs. It offers easy access to the Institute’s available wealth of resources, including its online and face-to-face learning programmes, and advice for PAIBs on how to best take control of their learning.
The changing role of the finance function
The role of the finance function in organizations is changing. The vision of IFAC for the finance function is to move from accounting for the balance sheet to accounting for the business. To effectively support business in its value creation and preservation, the finance function and the chief financial officer need to navigate a path to accounting for the whole business. This requires an external and forward-looking focus on the business, industry and market environment and the needs of end customers, as well as the needs of stakeholders.
The framework aims to provide a structured guide to boost the effectiveness of the finance function. The framework includes competencies across four knowledge areas, which are vital for PAIBs in any role – technical skills, business skills, leadership and people skills, and ethics integrity and professionalism. For each area, there are different sub-competencies relevant to different seniority levels, as PAIBs of different seniorities are required to demonstrate different competencies.
For PAIBs, the framework intends to address the many challenges they face. The framework can be used as part of a cyclical CPD framework of self-assessment, learning and development activities, reflection, and revision. Through self-assessment of a PAIB’s role, their career goals, and their learning and development activities, the framework can help to direct PAIBs’ training to competencies that will assist them in the future.
As PAIBs, we often need to undertake different tasks at work. For example, one day may be spent preparing financial statements, reviewing budgets, or developing risk management policies. The framework can be used by PAIBs to help direct them to the training they need to excel in all the areas they need to cover.
For example, if a middle management-level PAIB decides they need to improve their risk management and internal control competencies, the framework includes three sub-competencies for them to explore: identifying and managing risk, designing internal controls, and monitoring performance and accountability. The PAIB can then use the links included in the framework to find the relevant face-to-face and e-learning CPD activities to learn these competencies. The cyclical CPD framework can help PAIBs ensure that they remain on the right development track, and revise their development plans as appropriate when their responsibilities are expected to change, or do change.
As an employer, I know that an effectively skilled and staffed finance function can be transformative to an organization, and integral to its long-term success. Ensuring employees have the right skill sets, and training opportunities, is vital to getting the best from them – and that the finance function is future-ready.
The framework can be used by employers to help identify the skill set requirements for both existing and new staff, helping with the transformation of the finance function. Employers can then use their findings to determine suitable training and hiring policies. Through aligning the training objectives of individual staff and the organization’s internally-offered professional training programmes, the framework can be used to efficiently allocate resources.
Employers can also use the included 16 statement evaluation framework developed by IFAC to evaluate the performance of the finance function, and identify any deficient areas to be improved.
PAIBs are a diverse group, working in all sectors of the economy, from private companies to the government and not-for-profit sectors, in a wide range of roles and seniorities. Increasingly, PAIBs are relied upon to undertake strategic leadership roles, and collaborate across an organization. The Professional Development Framework for PAIBs can help PAIBs and their employers to direct their learning, and find CPD courses relevant to their needs. It comes at a time when PAIBs should be more focused than ever on demonstrating a wide range of competencies, which are growing all the time.