Study Shows Regulations Reaffirm Most Essential Role: Ensuring Integrity Of Financial Data


MENLO PARK, CA -- Recent corporate governance mandates and an emphasis on ethics and accurate financial reporting have led to heightened scrutiny and a back-to-basics approach in the accounting profession. Accountants have become increasingly prominent contributors among organizations, and their responsibilities and visibility have risen accordingly.


What does this mean for the next generation of accountants? There will continue to be myriad opportunities for those who can help companies meet compliance requirements and support business expansion projects. This is just one trend identified in Next Generation Accountant: A New Outlook on a Timeless Profession, a research initiative conducted by Robert Half, the world’s first and largest staffing service specializing in accounting and finance.

Next Generation Accountant examines how current events are shaping the future of the accounting and finance profession, and identifies the skills and competencies crucial for career success.  To gather this information, Robert Half commissioned independent surveys and interviewed experts in accounting and academia.


Among the highlights of the study:

·        Pressure to meet compliance deadlines is the biggest impact of increased corporate governance on business, according to 37 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed.

·        Fifty-eight percent of CFOs at privately held firms said their organizations are implementing new practices in response to governance mandates for publicly held companies.

·        A majority of CFOs (53 percent) said it will be important for accountants to have a solid understanding of foreign accounting regulations in the next five years.

·        Forty-nine percent of CFOs said they would recommend pursuing a background in general accounting to someone just beginning an accounting career.


“Corporate governance mandates, new business practices and recently created regulatory agencies have made this a dynamic time for accounting and finance professionals at all levels, and have led to new opportunities and challenges,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half. “To succeed in this environment, accountants must go beyond their traditional roles of simply delivering financial data. Rather, they will need to discuss the implications of this data in the broad context of compliance and how it impacts other areas of the business.”


The Role of the Consultant

Accountants with expertise in areas such as internal controls, business continuity planning, anti-fraud measures, and mergers and acquisitions are experiencing greater demand for their services. Opportunities will expand for professionals to pursue consulting roles at large public accounting firms and independent consultancies, many of which focus on specialty niches.


Skills and Specialties in Demand

Organizations across all industries have a need for skilled accounting and finance staff, with the greatest demand in the assurance, financial analysis, internal audit, forensic accounting and international accounting specialties.


Technological proficiency will remain a critical skill for next generation accountants. Firms seek employees who understand both the financial and technology aspects of various business improvement initiatives. Valued areas of expertise include systems documentation, flowcharting and data warehousing as well as knowledge of database management and enterprise resource planning systems.


The complexity of recently enacted accounting regulations and the cross-functional nature of compliance work also underscore the need for strong communication abilities and other soft skills such as diplomacy, persuasiveness and problem solving. In fact, when asked what impresses them most when interviewing executive-level job candidates, CFOs placed equal weight (34 percent) on verbal communication and problem-solving skills.


The Value of Certifications

Robert Half research found that a majority of CFOs believe that possessing a professional designation -- such as certified public accountant (CPA), certified internal auditor (CIA) and certified fraud examiner (CFE) -- enhances a candidate’s marketability.  “The ability to build upon one’s knowledge base is critical for next generation accountants. They must dedicate themselves to continuing education, including the pursuit of additional certifications, in order to move forward in their careers,” Messmer said.


Additional Next Generation Accountant research is available at Next Generation Accountant: A New Outlook on a Timeless Profession can be made from the website or by calling (866) 328-0577.. The website includes comprehensive survey findings, interview excerpts from leading accounting experts, a skills quiz and other career resources. Requests for a free copy of


About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest staffing firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology. Its financial staffing divisions include Robert Half® Finance & Accounting, Accountemps® and Robert Half® Management Resources, for full-time, temporary and senior-level project professionals, respectively.  The company has more than 330 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services on its divisional websites, all of which can be accessed at


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