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Controllership in the year ahead 

Trends and expectations for finance and accounting in 2024 and beyond 

At the end of 2023, heading into 2024, the Center for Controllership (CfC) explored accounting industry trends and controllership expectations to look out for in the new year and beyond. Accounting standards, new technology and artificial intelligence, and workforce transformation are some of the key controllership themes for the year ahead and beyond.

January 18, 2024

A blog post by Beth Kaplan, Katie GlynnDave Stahler, and Matthew Hurley

As we start the new year, it’s time to think about resolutions, expectations, and forecasts for the year ahead. The Center for Controllership has traditionally marked the calendar change as an opportunity to identify accounting industry trends to look out for and expectations for accounting and controllership throughout the year.  

To start 2024 with fresh eyes, we looked to answer questions, such as What is shaping the economy? What technology is going to emerge? What should controllers know?

With significant themes around accounting standards, new technology and artificial intelligence (AI), and talent transformation, here are some of the controllership trends and expectations for finance and accounting in the new year and beyond.

Reporting requirements and accounting standards will continue to evolve

Adapting to new accounting standards will be top of mind

In the near term and the year ahead, accounting and finance companies and leaders will continue to contend with new laws, regulatory considerations, and risks. Currently, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has a lot on the agenda. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is very active, and numerous new environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements are coming out. This will continue fairly regularly in the near term, and finance and controllership should focus on continuous evolution as standards are introduced and regulations are adopted. Some notable themes in for 2024 include many changes to disclosures from the FASB, ongoing efforts around the statement of cash flows, joint venture formation, disaggregation of income statement expenses, and a new draft ASU.

New technology regulations will add more complexity to accounting standards

New layers of complexity and necessary standards will also challenge controllers as they contend with the accounting for and disclosure of new concepts like crypto assets. Additional accounting and disclosure requirements for crypto assets will likely introduce uncertainty around disclosure methods, fair value measurement, and asset tracking. 

ESG will continue to be a hot topic

ESG is coming at organizations from all sides. If companies have operations in Europe, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) compliance is at the forefront. For those that have operations in California, new regulations coming from the California senate will be a priority, and public companies are anxiously awaiting what the final rules from the SEC will be.

In the year ahead, ESG will continue to be in the spotlight. There will be significant movement with the International Sustainability Standards Board’s (ISSB) first two sustainability disclosure standards: IFRS® S1 General Requirements for Disclosure of Sustainability-related Financial Information and IFRS S2 Climate-related Disclosures. However, while the focus has been primarily on the environmental side, reporting on the social and governance aspects of ESG requirements will likely start gaining more prominence as ESG evolves.

Innovative technology and artificial intelligence will have a universal impact

Controllership will shift toward a sustained transformation mindset

As new technology, data, and intelligent tools continue to emerge and innovate, controllers and finance professionals will continue their trajectory toward analyst and strategist roles within their organizations. Technology should facilitate less time being spent gathering and publishing reports in favor of real-time reporting, more time spent on risk identification and resolution, and a constant need for new skill sets to keep up with technology and AI innovation. In fact, in this rapid-paced world, controllership will continue the shift toward a more sustained transformation mindset now and into the future.   

Artificial intelligence will be everywhere

Actually, AI is already commonplace. In the modern era, the commoditization of computing, availability of big data, and development of deep learning techniques such as neural networks and large language models ushered in the modern AI revolution, and the recent emergence of self-service innovation tools have given consumers access to basic Generative AI capabilities. In fact, in this rapid-paced world, controllership will shift toward a more sustained transformation mindset now and into the future.  

It’s now time to start thinking about Generative AI in finance

While it is still early for widespread Generative AI in finance, it’s time to start thinking about where AI could exist within the whole ecosystem of finance and accounting—including its potential applications, impact on finance transformation, and how it may drive value. First, think about how AI drives value—it transforms, improves, unlocks, and identifies. It can transform generative tasks such as valuating productivity opportunities, improve decisioning with predictive attributes and better outcome precision, unlock enterprise knowledge with unique information or approaches, and identify revenue opportunities with new services or potential offerings. 

Aside from its overall value, as AI continues its upward trend, now is the time to start thinking about its more specific applications to the function and potential impacts on finance and accounting. Some of these applications already exist today. For example, there are already transactional, controllership, and internal audit use cases with the creation of financial documents, footnotes, disclosures, and the ability to generate text associated with embedded data and finance information. The fact is AI will start to become more embedded in the finance and accounting process, and it will continue to evolve into the future. Think about, prepare for, and expect AI in the year ahead.

The year ahead for the people of controllership

The talent and skills needed in finance will change and expand

We’ve seen how technology has evolved finance workers, from data crunchers to data analysts, and facilitated strategic partnerships within organizations. Over the next few years, finance workers will continue optimizing what they use their technology for, and new skill sets will emerge as they interact with new systems and technology innovation. Additionally, as AI becomes more common in finance and accounting applications, an AI-enabled finance function will introduce new jobs, new skills and capabilities, and evolved roles. In the year ahead and beyond, addressing talent resources and skills gaps should be a priority, and the question is no longer whether organizations should evolve their talent model but how.  

AI plus humans will deliver a new era of potential

AI, specifically the relationship between AI and humans, is one of the primary drivers of change that will have an impact on the finance and accounting workforce in the coming years. In fact, AI and the workforce may help deliver a new era of human potential. Because for all its tantalizing potential to automate and augment processes, AI will still require human talent—and organizations that tackle finance technology and talent together may better position themselves to achieve a competitive advantage. However, it is essential to remember that as AI becomes more prominent in use and importance, human connection is and will remain more important than ever.

These are just some of the major themes to look out for and accounting industry trends for the new year. To hear more insights for the year ahead in controllership, including Deloitte’s economic outlook and predictions for 2024 and beyond, listen to our Dbriefs webcast, Controllership year in review: A catalyst for progress in the new year.

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