CEO Forecast

PrimeGlobal CEO 2024 accounting sector forecast

PrimeGlobal CEO Steve Heathcote discusses the key ESG & AI themes impacting the profession and his predictions for the year ahead.

AI and technology

In 2024 there will be an AI arms race as tech service providers embrace AI to increase efficiency and provide data to help firms advise their clients.  This will lead to increased licensing costs for firms and more assessment of which providers are winning the race.  The rush to AI will increase cyber risk, also leading to increased investment in tech security.

The severe scarcity of staff will also drive more tech investment to support staff retention.  Firms will invest in ERP systems to create a more efficient, consistent, and seamless journey for their teams.  Investment in learning management platforms will increase to support staff development.

Kevin Dancey

CEO, International Federation of Accountants

The war for talent

To attract and retain staff, firms will invest in ensuring they have a clear sense of purpose – i.e., they have a positive impact on society.  The next generation consistently say that working for purpose driven organisations is a key factor when choosing an employer.  More of our firms will achieve B Corp accreditation in 2024, and many will start to track metrics such as their own carbon emissions.

ESG reporting

ESG opportunities for firms will accelerate as many businesses in the European Union, and in the US, realise the full impact of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the wide-ranging California climate disclosure law.  There will be a consequential impact in other markets like the UK.  Firms will need to build ESG capability to support businesses. New ESG assurance products will emerge; our firms are already collaborating and developing common approaches to meet this increasing demand.  PrimeGlobal is developing support for practitioners in the ESG space to ensure that firms can collaborate and quickly build capacity.

Overcoming challenges

Pressures across the accountancy profession will intensify with the continuing war for talent, new regulators expecting more from auditors, and private equity fuelling further firm consolidation.   Firms will need to develop clear strategies and ensure they can execute them effectively; this includes articulating what makes them different to others in the market - vital to attract the next generation of partners, or investors.  PrimeGlobal is developing tools to help firm leaders make these strategic decisions, set targets, and monitor progress.  We are also introducing leadership training across our member firms to ensure the next generation are equipped to lead this transition.

2024 will continue to be a period of uncertainty for the profession as proposed governance, accounting and audit reform is delayed as major elections take place in the US and the UK.  This will continue to make it very challenging for firms to advise and support businesses. With professionals already at peak capacity, Governments need to step back and consider what is most important – prioritising reporting and auditing regulation accordingly.  I believe this should mean prioritising ESG changes and allowing firms space to focus limited resources on this existential transition.

Main image: Steve Heathcote, CEO PrimeGlobal