The key to success…

At ACCA we know what a milestone it is when, after years of dedicated study, you finally get to write those four letters after your name writes Liz Hughes, head of ACCA Ireland and Mainland Europe

Brazilian football legend, Pele once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” While he might have been referring to achieving his success on the pitch, he could just as easily have been talking about achieving an ACCA membership!

It’s the rigour of the ACCA Qualification which makes it such a milestone to have passed, and it’s also what makes it so attractive to employers. Employers recognise that when they see those letters after your name, they are hiring someone who knows what it takes to achieve something worthwhile. In order to make sure that the ACCA qualification continues to challenge you – the ACCA members of the future – we are constantly challenging the ACCA Qualification itself. To stay effective for the next generation, it simply cannot stand still, and its continued evolution is what keeps it relevant. That’s why throughout our history, we’ve stayed ahead of the curve in developing the next generation of professional accountants with the skills the world needs.

The latest stage of that evolution began in 2014 when we kicked off a huge research project involving members, employers, education providers and regulators around the world. The findings of this work, which we called ‘Professional accountants – the future’, has already supported many significant innovations to the ACCA Qualification some of which are already in place. For example, our innovative knowledge exams that test early workplace application and our new Skills exams that use real-world technology and challenges. Or equally, our revamped practical experience requirements and our market-leading integrated BSc and MSc degrees.

Now we are ready to unveil the latest developments to the final level of the ACCA Qualification – namely, the new Strategic Professional level and our new Ethics and Professional Skills module.

With the Strategic Professional level, we’re setting a new standard by fully integrating deep, broad and relevant technical expertise with ethics and professional skills. Because every element has a real world focus, our students will be prepared to handle the challenges they’ll face in the workplace. The result is strategic, forward-thinking professionals equipped with the unique blend of skills needed to hit the ground running and add immediate value to their employers. The Strategic Professional level is benchmarked at Master’s level on a number of education frameworks.

Part of this evolution is the Strategic Business Leader – an innovative case study. In it, real-world scenarios are used to set challenges that require students to blend technical, professional and ethical skills in the evaluation, synthesis and presentation of their responses. Mirroring the workplace, students must present their answers to the standard employers expect from future business professionals.

Secondly, we have introduced Strategic Business Reporting, where we take the qualification’s current holistic perspective on reporting to a whole new level. The underpinning principles of corporate reporting remain, but these are enhanced by giving students the skills needed to confidently speak the language of business and explain reports to a wide variety of stakeholders.

You’ll be glad to know that our Options exams remain available, offering the unique opportunity to specialise in areas of greatest relevance to a chosen sector or career path. The advanced specialist expertise gained builds on the broad, cross-sector, relevant, technical foundation that all ACCA students acquire.

The ACCA Qualification already includes the world’s first Master’s degree integrated with a professional accountancy qualification. Delivered in partnership with the University of London, students can follow the Master’s route while completing their Strategic Professional exams or acquire the Master’s degree post-ACCA Qualification.

With our new Ethics and Professional Skills module, we will be the first to deliver a unique module that focuses on developing the complete range of professional skills employers have told us they need. Building on our pioneering Professional Ethics module, it continues to develop the vitally important ethical behaviour and judgment, complementing this with the broader communications, commercial, innovation, analysis and evaluation skills vital for career success.

Ethical competencies remain at the core of the profession. Ultimately underpinning success, they represent both expertise and integrity, which is an essential component to ensuring the credibility of accountancy.

To quote another well-known phrase, dramatist George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change.” Over the past decade, finance professionals have revolutionised the way in which they work. They are becoming leaders, trusted expert counsels and key strategic advisers to growing organisations across the public and private sectors. At ACCA we support the future of the profession by providing all our students and members with the skills for individual and organisational success.

The world is changing. With the emergence of greater regulation, huge technological advancements, increased globalisation and ever growing risk, the accountancy profession needs to be prepared for this uncertain future. Tomorrow’s professionals need to have the highest level of professional standards and be guided using a global mind-set to see beyond the numbers.

Future proofing skills is a huge part of navigating towards a successful career. We are in an age of collaboration in the profession between smart people and smart tools, as well as other drivers that continue to reshape job roles and responsibilities. The qualification changes support all upcoming professionals to build a portfolio of technical, ethical and interpersonal skills and competencies to ensure on-going relevancy as their careers become more fluid in future.

To change successfully, it takes looking at the way things are done and challenging the processes in order to find a better way. We like to think everyone in the ACCA family – students, members, staff and the ACCA Qualification itself – think in exactly the same way in their striving for success.

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