Accounting qualifications: What tech did accountants miss out on?
When aspiring accountants are completing their qualifications, they must feel that the courses are preparing them for the road ahead. But once they’ve spent several years on the job, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Previously, AccountingWEB asked several industry insiders whether accountancy qualifications should incorporate more technology – the general consensus was that they should involve more tech used on the job without taking away the fundamental knowledge of accountancy. But what exactly is missing, and do existing accountants agree?
According to Kapil Khagram, a business reporting accountant at Hermes Investment Management, who qualified with an ACA back in 2014, the qualification could have incorporated more Excel tutorials and generic accounting software training. He suggested that almost every accounting job requires the use of Excel, and therefore training to use the software as part of any accounting qualification could help to make accountants more efficient.
Chetan Shah, a financial accountant that qualified with an ACCA in 2014, also suggested that advanced use of Excel would have been helpful to learn as part of his qualification as it is needed in practice and industry.
However, while Shah hasn’t taken any additional courses to help with tech-specific skills since sitting his accounting exams, he said that the likes of Quorum Training offer Excel courses. But there are non-traditional ways to gain the skills too, as Khagram explained.
“I’ve never taken an actual course but there are many self-teaching Excel and Macros courses on YouTube that have helped,” he said.
But while Khagram stated that accounts preparation software, audit software and bookkeeping software variants are all very similar, albeit requiring some sort of tailing to a specific accountant’s role, Alex Combes, cloud technology manager at AV Cloud, suggested that the software felt very different when learning at a younger age.
“When I studied my AAT qualification between 2013 and 2015, one of the required modules was book-keeping on Sage. At the time, I had recently completed my Xero certification through Ad Valorem and the two pieces of software could not feel more different to a young learning mind,” he explained.
“I believe more technology should be in place within accountancy qualifications but only if they are relevant to the diversifying market,” he added.
The concept of cloud computing was never mentioned as part of the AAT, Combes stated, and he thinks rather than incorporating tech within existing accountancy qualifications, accountants should take on separate tech qualifications.
The flipside, Khagram explained, is that even though he would have saved time learning certain tech skills on a course rather than on-the-job, it would not be as tailored to fit the job specification.
“By learning on the job, you only learn the parts that are relevant to you and when you need them,” he said.
If a specific accountant’s role changes or they move to another company, they may not have the background knowledge in software that would have held them in good stead.
There are of course other tech-related skills that are required for some accountants right now and in the future.
Khagram said that his role involves creating bespoke reports which require skills such as SQL, while Shah predicts that the ability to model, use technology to make processes more efficient and to drive better analytics for organisations will be key skills that accountants will have to learn in the near future.
The key point is that accountancy is so wide and the technology necessary for specific roles varies significantly, and so it would be hard to incorporate everything into the ACA, ACCA, CIMA and AAT qualifications.
However, advanced Excel and a non-vendor biased accounting software module could help accountants to become better at their jobs more swiftly, as well as having a more in-depth repertoire of skills that could not only help their existing employer, but could help the employee for their long-term future.