Agnieszka Jarosz, head of ACCA Northern and Eastern Europe

One of the UK’s great global exports is professional standards. With its long tradition of integrity and building trustworthy institutions, the British model of training, examining and certifying accountants has become common worldwide. Holding a qualification such as ACCA – delivered everywhere in English – an accountant has a readily transferable skill, while their employer can be certain that a chartered certified accountant is up to the required standard. Agnieszka Jarosz, head of ACCA Northern and Eastern Europe, talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about how ACCA is adapting to the rapidly changing demands that face accountants.

In last year’s Finance issue of Contact Magazine Online, KPMG’s Dagmara Wojnar described the role of a CFO as ‘chief future officer’. The ACCA talks about a ‘chief value officer’. We’re seeing the CFO becoming increasingly important in any management board. How is the ACCA supporting chief financial officers in developing the skill-sets needed for the demands of tomorrow’s boardrooms?

New research[1] conducted by ACCA and BDO has unveiled the expanding role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in driving business decisions and reporting on non-financial aspects of their operations, establishing a significant correlation between value creation and strategic initiatives. Leveraging a comprehensive range of drivers, including financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship, and environmental factors, CFOs generate benefits that extend to a diverse array of stakeholders, ultimately creating value.

The resulting insights derived from the study can be summarised into three pivotal findings:

  1. The concept of value lies at the core of performance management in organisations and its adoption is an indispensable component of their pursuit of a sustainable future.
  2. CFOs are increasingly embracing a value-centric approach in their work, signifying a progression towards assuming the role of the Chief Value Officer, encompassing responsibilities that go beyond the traditional financial focus.
  3. The developmental trajectory for aspiring CFOs necessitates a broader range of experiences, encompassing both formal and informal learning activities. It is imperative for professional bodies and practices to engage with this evolving landscape.

In light of our research, continuous market monitoring, and feedback from our members, ACCA actively supports CFOs in cultivating the skill sets essential for meeting the demands of future boardrooms through a variety of initiatives and resources. We specifically emphasise the concept of a ‘Chief Value Officer,’ acknowledging the CFO’s increasing significance within management boards. ACCA provides comprehensive programs, training, and certification courses designed to enhance CFOs’ proficiency in management, strategic financial planning, and business analysis. Furthermore, we offer publications, research reports, and valuable insights that keep CFOs abreast of emerging trends and best practices in the field. Through these efforts, ACCA endeavours to assist CFOs in adapting to evolving business dynamics, equipping them with the requisite competencies to thrive in future boardroom environments.

ESG and non-financial reporting is becoming increasingly important as companies around the world strive to play their part in cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, and as new regulations come into force. How is the ACCA adapting to this trend? Are the methodologies used by accountants also helpful in reporting on the ‘greenness’ of a company? And how does this affect green finance?

ACCA acknowledges the escalating importance of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and non-financial reporting within the contemporary business landscape. In order to align with this prevailing trend, we have actively engaged in promoting and supporting sustainability reporting initiatives on a global scale, with a particular emphasis on Europe and Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) implementation. Our comprehensive global policy serves as a focal point for our collaborative efforts with governments, policymakers, and the donor community worldwide. Through these partnerships, we endeavour to foster sustainable economies and cultivate an inclusive workforce, equipped with the necessary business and finance acumen to navigate a sustainable future.

ESG factors are extensively assessed within the ACCA Qualification and form a substantial component of our ongoing learning initiatives. Notably, our Certificate in Sustainability for Finance provides a dedicated avenue for professionals to deepen their understanding of sustainability in the financial realm. By integrating this knowledge with strategic business and financial expertise, as well as integrated thinking, ACCA members and future members gain a holistic perspective, enabling them to comprehensively evaluate and balance the long-term economic, environmental, and social implications inherent in business decision-making.

These resources serve as invaluable aids for accountants in navigating the intricacies of ESG reporting, ensuring the accurate and transparent disclosure of environmental impacts, social responsibility, and governance practices. Accountants, equipped with their specialised expertise, are well-positioned to measure, assess, and report on various environmental indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, water usage, and waste management. By leveraging robust accounting methodologies, companies can furnish reliable and comparable information pertaining to their environmental performance, thus facilitating informed evaluations of a company’s green credentials.

The ‘S’ in ESG should not be overlooked – to what extent do diversity & inclusivity affect the accountancy sector? Are women becoming more represented among the higher levels of the accounting profession, and in boardrooms? How is ACCA helping to make this happen?

The ‘S’ in ESG, symbolising social factors encompassing diversity and inclusivity, assumes a pivotal role in the realm of accountancy[2]. ACCA recognises that advancing gender diversity stands as a paramount objective within the accounting profession. Although notable strides have been achieved, there remains a continued imperative to ensure heightened representation of women in upper echelons of the accounting field and corporate boardrooms.

Moreover, ACCA diligently endeavours to cultivate an environment of impartiality and inclusiveness in the qualifications and assessments it proffers. Continual scrutiny of its processes and practices is conducted to eradicate potential obstacles and foster equal opportunities for all aspiring accountants. By championing the cause of diversity and inclusivity, ACCA steadfastly aspires to engender an accounting sector that is both representative and inclusive. Through multifaceted initiatives, tireless advocacy, and collaborative endeavours, we ardently strive to dismantle barriers, foster gender diversity, and bolster the advancement of women within the profession and in corporate boardrooms.

How is the ACCA qualification perceived in Poland – not only by multinational corporations, but by Polish state-owned enterprises? How does ACCA cooperate – or compete – with Polish professional associations of accountants and auditors? How does the mutual recognition of qualifications look in practice – has Brexit changed anything? And how easy is it for, say, a Ukrainian accountant with ACCA qualifications to find a job in Poland or the UK?

The ACCA qualification is widely acclaimed for its prestige, denoting a remarkable level of professionalism, technical expertise, and adherence to ethical standards in the realm of accounting and finance. ACCA collaborates closely with Polish professional associations of accountants and auditors, fostering a shared commitment to promoting best practices and advancing the accounting profession. We actively engage in conferences, participate in public discussions and consultations, and present unified perspectives on the future of the accountancy profession. The esteemed ACCA qualification holds substantial recognition, not only among multinational corporations but also among Polish state-owned enterprises. In fact, ACCA qualification is a prerequisite for individuals aspiring to join supervisory bodies and management bodies in state-owned enterprises.

Regarding Ukrainian accountants possessing ACCA qualifications, they generally encounter favourable job prospects in both Poland and the UK. The ACCA qualification garners high esteem in both countries, augmenting the employability of Ukrainian accountants. However, it is crucial to consider individual circumstances such as language proficiency, work experience, and local market conditions, as these factors may influence the job search process.

Therefore, the ACCA has received recognition that its procedure and examination programmes meet the requirements for obtaining auditor status in Ukraine. Candidates who successfully pass the relevant Qualification exams receive a certificate of their theoretical knowledge according to the established procedure. ACCA members will need to sit one further qualification exam from the Audit Public Oversight Board of Ukraine (APOB) to gain the local audit qualification. Accountants are crucial to keeping economies stable and helping them to evolve. Working together with the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine and APOB is a great example of joint work for a better future for Ukraine, dedication and international recognition.

The dynamic growth of ACCA in Poland has been driven to an extent by the boom in shared-service centres and business process outsourcing. How do you work with the SSC/BPO sector in terms of delivering training and qualifications? And how does ACCA’s cooperation with Polish universities look in the context of the growing need for modern business services?

We fully acknowledge the significance of the GBS (Global Business Services) sector in Poland. As a result, we actively engage in collaborative efforts with industry stakeholders to facilitate the advancement of skills and qualifications that are pertinent to this sector. We maintain close relationships with GBS organisations to comprehensively comprehend their distinctive training requirements and meticulously tailor our programs to cater to their specific needs. These programmes encompass comprehensive training and certifications that focus on essential proficiencies requisite in the sector, including finance, accounting, taxation, audit, and business analysis. We have introduced Certificate in Global Business Services[3] as a perfect qualification for individuals in roles like travel and expenses analyst, accounts payable analyst, accounts receivable analyst, general ledger analyst and other financial positions on a similar level. By aligning our offerings with the industry’s demands, ACCA ensures that professionals in the GBS sector possess the indispensable competencies to excel in their roles.

Our collaboration with Polish universities is equally essential to meet the escalating demand for modern business services. We actively collaborate with these universities to devise and implement programs that bridge the gap between theoretical academic education and the practical necessities of the industry. ACCA extends support to universities in delivery of lectures and organisation of career development activities. This symbiotic partnership aims to enhance the employability of graduates by equipping them with the precise skill sets that are coveted by the SSC/BPO sector. By nurturing this collaboration, we empower aspiring professionals to acquire the proficiencies indispensable for success within the GBS domain.

ACCA publishes its Global Economics Conditions Survey (GECS) quarterly, a snapshot in time of how ACCA members around the world assess the economic environment for business. How does the information from GECS help business leaders adjust and prepare their firms to ever-changing business conditions?

Our Global Economics Conditions Survey[4] (GECS) holds immense value for business leaders seeking to effectively adapt and prepare their organisations in response to the ever-evolving business landscape. Through a meticulous analysis of the survey findings, these leaders gain invaluable insights into crucial global economic trends, including GDP growth, inflation rates, interest rates, and employment levels. This comprehensive analysis equips them with a deep understanding of the current economic panorama, enabling them to make well-informed decisions regarding their business strategies and investment initiatives.

In addition to providing insights into economic trends, the survey also captures the business confidence levels among ACCA members. This information serves as a vital tool for business leaders to gauge the overall sentiment prevailing within the broader business community. By monitoring positive or negative shifts in confidence indicators, these leaders can effectively evaluate market opportunities and strategically plan expansions or contractions accordingly.

Moreover, the GECS offers valuable data for conducting thorough risk assessments. The survey expertly highlights potential challenges and risks that businesses may face across different regions. Armed with this foresight, business leaders can proactively develop contingency plans and make necessary adjustments to their operational strategies, thus mitigating potential risks and maximising opportunities.

Overall, the GECS acts as a reliable and indispensable resource, enabling business leaders to remain well-informed about prevailing economic conditions. By leveraging this knowledge, they can adeptly adapt their organisations, effectively navigate the complexities of an ever-changing business environment, and make informed decisions that drive sustained success.

2023 is likely to go down in history as the year artificial intelligence became a mainstream fact of life. Seeing the potential of GPT4, how do you think AI will affect the accountancy profession, and what will be its impact on jobs across the financial sector?

AI is anticipated to change the field of accounting by automating routine tasks such as data entry, transaction processing, and basic financial analysis. This automation will yield substantial improvements in efficiency and accuracy, liberating accountants to redirect their focus towards more strategic and value-added endeavours.

AI will further augment decision-making processes by swiftly analysing vast volumes of financial data and detecting patterns or anomalies that may elude human accountants. This advanced data analysis capability holds the potential to enhance financial forecasting and risk management, enabling more precise and informed decision-making.

It is important to acknowledge that while AI will bring about changes in job roles within the accountancy profession, it will not completely replace human accountants. Instead, the profession is poised to undergo a transformative shift wherein accountants will need to acquire new skill sets to effectively harness the power of AI technologies. These skills may encompass a comprehensive understanding of AI algorithms, adeptness in data analysis, and the ability to interpret AI-generated insights for making informed business decisions.

In essence, AI’s impact on the accountancy profession will necessitate the evolution of accountants as they adapt to the changing landscape, embracing AI as a tool to augment their capabilities rather than viewing it as a threat. By embracing these advancements and cultivating the required competencies, accountants can leverage AI to enhance their professional practices and unlock new realms of efficiency, insight, and value creation.

Next year is the ACCA’s 120th birthday and the 20th anniversary of its presence in Poland. How will you be celebrating?

We take great pride in our rich history and tradition as the first professional body that values individuals based on their knowledge, skills, and ethics rather than factors such as ethnicity, gender, or social background. To honour these significant milestones, we are dedicated to organising special events, conferences, and meetings that bring together professionals from the accounting and finance community.

As part of our commemoration efforts, we have launched the campaign “We’ve Come So Far.” This initiative aims to celebrate and share the diverse and unique journeys of our members, highlighting their remarkable achievements and the common thread that unites them all—their membership in our global community. Through inspiring stories of accomplishment from our community, we seek to showcase the value that ACCA brings and remind everyone of the immense world of opportunities that await with ACCA.

We believe that our association’s strength lies in the unwavering support and belief of our members. By amplifying their voices and celebrating their accomplishments, we demonstrate the profound impact ACCA has on the lives and careers of individuals within our community. Together, we celebrate diversity, foster inclusivity, and inspire future generations to pursue their aspirations within the accounting and finance profession.


[1] Over 100 CFOs and business leaders from around the world took part in roundtables and in-depth interviews to contribute their insight into how the traditional role of the CFO is changing, resulting in the report ‘Chief value officer – the important evolution of the CFO’.

[2] Learn more from latest report: Accounting for Society’s Values

[3] Learn more on: Certificate in Global Business

[4] All GECS report available on the website or via ACCA Professional Insights app Services