A new global architecture

Next week I’ll be heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where I’ll be speaking on a panel and attending a number of other events and meetings.

Ahead of my trip, I’ve been reflecting on the manifesto for this year’s Forum, Globalization 4.0, Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I wanted to bring this document to members’ attention, as it contains many themes and ideas of relevance and resonance to our profession and business more widely.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

The manifesto identifies the evolving Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as a time of fundamental transformation – economically, socially and politically – and calls for a redesign of the processes and institutions which have until now served us well, maintained peace and delivered progress.

It goes on to characterise the 4IR, poses options for dealing with it and outlines key issues which will continue to drive it and on which there is a need for global dialogue.

Digital disruption for our profession

There is frequent reference to the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and the use of big data; all themes which will resonate strongly with members and which ICAEW has already been examining, and will continue to examine very closely. In October, we launched our Finance in a Digital World initiative with Deloitte, designed to help members and other finance professionals to navigate the changes.

The manifesto also specifically references the reformation of tax systems as part of the transformation of income patterns – currently of particular relevance to UK members with the impending introduction of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) programme. We will be launching an updated report looking at global examples of the digitalisation of tax, within the next couple of weeks.

Of course, with these changes comes the need for new skills and training, and continuous professional development (CPD). We continue to update our ACA modules to reflect these changes, and to invest in providing members with CPD and thought leadership.

Heading forward

There is undoubtedly a need for global collaboration and agile thinking, driven by effective leadership. We all need to embrace the 4IR in a way that recognises and supports the changing principles of the global economy.

A theme at the heart of much of this debate is trust, which has become a defining issue for our profession – trust that business and economic models will be fair and work to support all, in the public interest. Consequently – and as with the current reviews of audit taking place – the dialogue must address public expectations and include all stakeholders.

I highly recommend reading this manifesto; on the surface it provides plenty of food for thought for us all, but it also poses some very serious questions which require deep consideration by those of us seeking to promote global collaboration and continue to sustainably strengthen economies. I look forward to discussing these challenges with others in Davos next week.