This quality is the most important for accountants in the digital age, according to ACCA

This quality is the most important for accountants in the digital age, according to ACCA

This quality is the most important for accountants in the digital age, according to ACCA

A new report from ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) examines the role of emotional intelligence in developing the accountancy professional needed for the digital age.

Emotions may not be the first thing anyone would associate with accounting. But a rounded set of skills that go beyond technical knowledge are needed to face the challenges of an era of increasing digitisation.

ACCA refers to these qualities as the professional quotients. Emotional quotients are a range of skills ranging from technical excellence to ethics and personal skills and qualities including the emotional quotient, or EQ for short.

The report, Emotional quotient in a digital age, was the result of a survey of 4,660 respondents from 139 countries. It assessed their existing levels of EQ as well as highlighting areas where changes in the industry have made EQ more important.

Rapid change in the digital age has made the ability to adapt and learn new skills and ways of working more important than ever.

ACCA has created a diagnostic tool for individuals to self-assess their level of EQ. It can then be compared against a global benchmark which has been specifically created for the accountancy profession.

The report identifies six areas where technology has impacted on the need for EQ in professional accountants. These are:

  • Change readiness – overcoming fear of change is essential in the fast-moving digital age
  • Increased diversity – empathy is needed to understand the perspectives of a wider pool of stakeholders, made accessible through remote working and technology tools
  • Ethics and beliefs – digital adoption requires self-knowledge of one’s own beliefs, for instance when setting boundaries in an ‘always-on’ environment
  • Cognition and learning – it can be a challenge deciding what to prioritise in an era of fast reactions and high volume
  • Human-machine interaction – accountants need to be flexible and adaptive as we engage with technological tools, and derive value from them
  • Shifting power – the digital age is less hierarchical, and requires ‘softer’ forms of influencing than in the past

Practice makes perfect

Researchers also found that greater experience of needing to use EQ improved it. This implies that EQ can be learned rather than being an innate quality. Like most other skills, it can be developed over time. And the more one focuses on it, the better it becomes.

“Many people have an intuitive sense of EQ, often expressed as something to do with emotions and interacting effectively with people. But it is important to go beyond this and critically reflect on the value embedded in emotions in today’s digital age.

“Being able to effectively harness this value is vital for success,” said ACCA chief executive Helen Brand OBE.

The best way to improve your EQ, according to the ACCA report, is to work on a series of abilities. These include “a growth mindset”, self-knowledge, perspective-taking, empathy and influence.

A growth mindset is one which is geared towards adaptation and improvement. Those with a growth mindset are able to use this flexibility to improve other EQ skills, the study found.


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