Senior public sector finance professionals look ahead with lessons learned from pandemic
Responsiveness, adaptability and flexibility are essential, alongside embracing new skills

THE realities of senior public sector finance leaders' management of the novel coronavirus pandemic are shared in a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand).

Published in Leading recovery — the evolving role of senior finance leadership in the public sector, attendees at various global round tables identified three major areas in which the public sector faces difficulties in the years ahead: recruiting and retaining finance professionals, preparing for reducing budgets for public services, and adapting to wider societal changes.

Looking back, they reveal how professional accountants led with agility to enable their organisations to support governments' aims of saving lives and protecting livelihoods. Increased spending, streamlined decision-making processe, and better integration of the finance function epitomised the work of senior finance leaders and their teams during this time.

Building on the experience of the pandemic, ACCA and CA ANZ say there are six key lessons for public sector finance leaders to focus on. They need to transform systems to build organisational resilience and make better use of data. They must rethink leadership approaches to empower staff and provide visible leadership. And they need to ensure their organisations adapt to new ways of working to focus on purpose, then place and break down barriers.

ACCA and CA ANZ have also identified an 'ABCD' of skills which public sector finance leaders of the future will need to develop: adaptability, business sense, communication, and determination.

Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA, says: "It's very heartening to read the recollections of these public sector finance leaders who remained so dedicated to their organisations, their customers and clients during the pandemic's turbulence. They are well prepared for the future, but they are also not complacent and see the clear need to learn continuously."

Ainslie van Onselen, chief executive of CA ANZ, adds: "Our report's ABCD framework can help aspiring finance leaders in the public sector to ensure they broaden their horizons from the traditional tasks of a finance professional to a wider organisational perspective. This breadth and depth helped leaders during the pandemic and prepares for future resilience too."

At the round tables, members of ACCA and CA ANZ also commented on the value of their professional bodies in helping them understand the "basics" and develop their knowledge in their careers through continuing professional development (CPD).

Helen and Ainslie jointly concluded: 'Professional accountants have a wider set of skills beyond technical knowledge, and bring strong strategic advice to support the organisations they serve. These skills can be developed and refined through experience and reflection.

"Given the immense test of the pandemic, it's wonderful to hear agreement from finance leaders and their teams that they were able to demonstrate their worth to the organisations and [the] public they ultimately serve. We agree with this too."

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society that supports both public and private sectors. That's why we're committed to the development of a strong global accountancy profession and the many benefits that this brings to society and individuals.

Since 1904, being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. And because we're a not-for-profit organisation we build a sustainable global profession by reinvesting our surplus to deliver member value and develop the profession for the next generation.

Through our world-leading ACCA qualification, we offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. And, using our respected research, we lead the profession by answering today's questions and preparing us for tomorrow.

ACCA and CA ANZ have formed a strategic alliance for the benefit of members and to help shape the future of the profession. Find out more about us at

About CA ANZ: Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) represents 131,673 financial professionals, supporting them to make a difference to the businesses, organisations, and communities in which they work and live. Chartered accountants are known as difference-makers. The depth and breadth of their expertise help them to see the big picture and chart the best course of action.

CA ANZ actively engages with governments, regulators, and standard-setters on behalf of members and the profession, to advocate boldly in the public good. Find out more:

The report and its summary can be downloaded from here:

About ACCA: ACCA is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. We're a thriving global community of 233,000 members and 536,000 future members, based in 178 countries and regions, that upholds the highest professional and ethical values.


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