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During its Professional Accountants In Business Virtual Conference in August 2020, the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) launched its new Redefining the Finance Function with Job Redesign. The research initiative is a collaboration between ISCA, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd.

The research study identifies and illustrates how job roles in finance functions in Singapore can be redesigned to respond to technological changes in the next three to five years, and to optimize collaboration between humans and machines. It also provides a view on job mobility and recommends pathways for possible job transitions both within and outside of the accountancy profession. In addition, it identifies the emerging skill sets that employees should possess to meet changing job requirements and highlights the skills gaps that need to be bridged in job transitions.

Mr. Lee Fook Chiew, ISCA’s Chief Executive Officer explained that the study’s objective is to support employees by steering them through impending changes to their job roles and changing demand in skill sets. This is especially pertinent in light of the COVID-19 crisis, which has hastened the pace of digital transformation.

He also shared that the study can enhance business leaders’ understanding of the role of technology as an enabler in job redesign and spur enterprises to adopt new technologies. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data can enable faster decision making and process optimization, which can sharpen a company’s competitive edge and heighten its business performance. With digital tools such as Robotics Process Automation, finance processes can be redesigned to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, enabling the finance function to focus on business-critical processes.

The research scope covers common job roles in the financial accounting and management accounting tracks of the finance function that are found in most companies in Singapore. This references Singapore’s Skills Framework (SFw) for Accountancy, in which a total of 11 common job roles were mapped out for the finance function. The SFw for Accountancy was developed as part of a national effort in Singapore to support transformation of the accountancy sector particularly in promoting skills mastery and lifelong learning. The SFw for Accountancy provides information on sector, career pathways, occupations/job roles, existing and emerging skills, and training programs for skills upgrading and mastery. It was jointly developed by government agencies - SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore, accountancy bodies - Singapore Accountancy Commission and ISCA, together with industry associations, training providers, organizations, and unions.

The key takeaways of the study include:

  • Within the next three to five years, technologies like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics/big data and blockchain will greatly enhance decision making and effectiveness of finance functions.
  • More than half of the 11 job roles in the finance function cited in the Skills Framework will be moderately to highly changed by technology in the next three to five years.
  • Those in the two most junior roles, which are likely to be displaced by technology, can explore job transition pathways within and beyond the accountancy profession.
  • To provide job mobility opportunities for highly impacted junior roles, suggested transition pathways within the accountancy profession can include, depending on differing pace of technology adoption across companies:

a) Upskill to assume next-level roles, for example as accountant, senior accounts executives, financial planning, and business analysts.

b) The two most junior roles may converge into one role, as new technologies take over more tasks in both financial and management accountant tracks.

c) Both roles could move to the internal audit track to take up the senior internal auditor/internal auditor role.

  • Also, the highly impacted junior roles can explore suggested lateral transition pathways beyond the accountancy profession including:

a) Financial accounting accounts executive/accounts assistant: – clinical data manager, business intelligence analyst, customer service representative

b) Management accounting executive: quality control systems manager, logistics manager, compliance manager’