By Daniel Hunter

Fuel price rise fears and cyber security pose the greatest challenges for UK business in the short term, according to a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), with 88 per cent of executives and 78 per cent of accountants who took part ranking it as the highest concern.

The report also showed that 3 out of 4 senior executives and accountants identified the increased focus on the accountant’s role as a business partner as the most important factor in the medium term from 2016-2022, while the biggest long term focus of both business leaders and finance professionals was a potential shift in the global reserve currency from the US dollar to a different currency, such as the Euro or Yuan.

The findings also point to a greater priority for non-financial information and integrated reporting, with 70 per cent of executives and accountants citing it as critical for medium term future plans.

Faye Chua, ACCA head of future research, said: “The report shows that senior executives and the accountants who work alongside them are on the same page and both looking ahead to the same future challenges. That trend resonates with the medium term priority the report revealed of ensuring accountants take on a more business-focused, strategic role in a company.

“Right now, the impact of fuel and energy bills on businesses is a concern and one that should not be overlooked, but executives and accountants are thinking, rightly, further ahead than the next few years and there is a clear need to adapt in readiness for those expected challenges. In addition, the roles of non-financial information reporting and integrated reporting are becoming integral to businesses and the finance function. The environmental and social impact of a business is an area which is seeing greater involvement from accountants.”

Other findings from the survey:

- Accountancy practices identified cloud computing as a major factor due to affect business over the medium term
- 68 per cent of accountants identified the increasing cost and accessibility to higher education as a major, short-term concern
- SMEs identified an increase in carbon taxes and the potential change in the global business language as long term factors that would drive change in their businesses

The study revealed that the corporations identified the growing impact of businesses from BRIC economies on businesses from developed nations as a key, medium term factor.

Faye Chua added: “For accountants and businesses it’s not just about England & Wales anymore. As UK businesses of all sizes keep one eye on other markets and developments in the global economy, accountants and finance professionals are mastering the technical, language and cultural challenges of cross-border operations. They are taking on a more holistic outlook in their roles for the benefit of their employers or business clients.”

Raef Lawson, Ph.D, CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research said: “Like businesses the world over, UK companies and accountants are identifying similar factors that they need to adapt for in the future. It is also clear that UK businesses are not only looking at domestic developments and there is a global outlook in their plans for change.”

As part of a wider global report, more than 550 accountants and business leaders from different sectors of the UK economy offered their insights into future drivers for change.

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