Our wide-ranging research on the future economic, professional and social landscape draws on the expertise across our global network and helps us analyse and shape our response.

During 2018-19, we’ve undertaken wide-ranging trend analysis to support development of our 2025 strategy. This work has reinforced that we’re in an unprecedented time of change. The global climate of increased volatility is bringing heightened political, social and economic tensions.

Digital technologies and automation, changes in the learning and employer landscapes, and new generations emerging into the workplace with very different expectations of professional qualification and membership to previous ones, are all creating both disruption and opportunity. ACCA’s professional insights report on the Emotional Quotient (EQ), and our prior work on Professional Accountants - the Future, reinforce that our ACCA Qualification changes provide the increasingly broader – and inter-related – skills and competences being demanded of the 21st century professional accountant.

Our Learning for the Future research also explores the impact of digital developments on how individuals learn and reinforces the importance of continuous lifelong learning to meet the fast-evolving demands of business and society

Key trends shaping our environment

Technology

Robotics and AI will become increasingly more prevalent, displacing programmable tasks and helping shape new business models, structures and careers.

Further movement of accounting professionals up the value chain. Huge business potential unleashed by the power of data analytics.

Lower-level roles and skills replaced by machine.

Rate of change and economic volatility

The global economy will continue to be unpredictable, with fluidity and volatility driven by political, social, environmental and technological disruption.

Greater demand for analysis and interpretation skills to assess and mitigate threats and risks.

Challenges in forecasting and greater uncertainty for entities and individuals.

Trust deficit

High levels of public distrust in governments, business and the professions. Rising expectations from society that organisations and professionals need to be held to greater account and the growth of activism against business and institutions.

A wider and more valued role for professionals and organisations who ‘walk the talk’ on ethics and are transparent in their dealings.

Contagion from issues around public trust permanently damaging the profession and its credibility.

Rising regulation and reporting

In an effort to manage societal expectations, reporting is growing and expanding to cover climate change, gender pay and UN SDGs, with greater and wider expectations around disclosures. At the same time, nation-specific regulation is on the increase.

Professionals need to manage rising complexity in compliance, globally and nationally.

Professional accountants failing to fully embrace non-financial reporting and losing career territory as a result.

Changing aspirations of next generations

Newer generations in the workplace have different expectations and drivers, with progression and variety being prized over company loyalty.

Chance to reshape the role and remit of professional accountants for a new age.

Lack of appeal of traditional professions.

All this will call for greater agility and resilience from organisations that wish to thrive in the future. A dynamic and flexible approach will be required, as well as a laser-like focus on customer needs and experience.

 

The immediate economic outlook and our response

 

After decades where we’ve seen an embrace of globalisation – or, at the very least, an acceptance of global inter-connectedness – we’re now seeing a globalisation backlash in some key advanced developed economies and a move towards national interests, with the US and UK being prime examples of this shift. Unresolved trade tensions between China and the US, and the US and EU continue to create uncertainty, as does the yet unresolved issue of the UK’s exit from the EU.

 

However, the global economy is facing what the UN terms as a ‘confluence of risks, which could severely disrupt economic activity and inflict significant damage on longer-term development prospects’.

According to UN economic reports, global growth is expected to remain at three per cent in 2019 and 2020. However, the global economy is facing what the UN terms as a ‘confluence of risks, which could severely disrupt economic activity and inflict significant damage on longer-term development prospects’. These risks include the escalation of trade disputes, an abrupt tightening of global financial conditions, and intensifying climate risks.

Strong growth is nevertheless forecast for a number of key markets– with India and China outperforming other large economies. These two large markets form the backbone of ACCA’s portfolio. Through our network of offices we are able to respond to market opportunities as they arise, although our financial parameters for the coming year will mean we need to be very disclipined around investment.