A Look Back: 5 Trends That Affected Accounting and Finance in 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s an opportune time for CFOs and other financial executives to reflect on the changes and challenges they’ve faced. Here are five top trends we’ve seen through our work with business and industry leaders and our research that impacted accounting and finance this year.

1. Big developments in big data

Big data continues to change the face of accounting and finance, altering the way organizations do business. In 2014, it became increasingly important for financial executives to invest in big data and harness it for strategic planning, forecasting, budgeting and profitability analysis.

The prominence of big data is bolstering the role of the business analyst. According to the 2015 Salary Guide from Robert Half, starting salaries for business analysts are expected to rise as much as 4.4 percent next year, compared to the average 3.5 percent increase for all accounting and finance positions.

The demand for analytics expertise isn’t limited to analysts, though. The majority of CFOs in a Robert Half Management Resources survey reported business analytics skills are mandatory for today’s finance and accounting professionals.

2. Shortage of skilled talent

The hiring process has become more difficult for many employers. In a Robert Half survey, 68 percent of CFOs interviewed said it’s challenging to locate skilled candidates. Unemployment in accounting and finance remains low, and top performers often receive multiple job offers.

As a result, competition to attract and retain skilled professionals has intensified. Employers are responding by upping their salaries and finding their hiring timelines need to be accelerated.

3. Struggles with ICFR

In 2014, financial executives also faced challenges related to internal control over financial reporting (ICFR). Notably, the deadline for transitioning to the updated COSO framework was December 15, 2014. Yet, the results of a May Protiviti survey suggested many firms would be scrambling to meet this timeline. Nearly half of respondents’ organizations had not begun applying the new framework to their key controls when the survey was conducted.

Firms also are increasing their volume of internal controls, as reported in Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function: 2014 from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF). Some executives surveyed for the research said their companies are managing more than 1,000 controls.

4. Evolving healthcare regulations

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) had a major impact in 2014 and likely will continue to next year. In the 2015 Finance Priorities Survey from Protiviti and FERF, CFOs again ranked changes to U.S. healthcare regulations as a top concern.

The deadline for ACA compliance with the employer mandate has been extended to January 1, 2016, for employers with between 50 and 100 employees and full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). But businesses with 100 or more employees and FTEs must offer health insurance coverage to 70 percent of full-time employees and eligible dependents by January 1, 2015, or pay a penalty.

5. Ongoing compliance challenges

Regulatory challenges persist beyond healthcare. In a separate Robert Half Management Resources survey, only 9 percent of CFOs said it’s now less challenging to manage their firm’s compliance-related initiatives than it was the prior 12 months.

The mounting regulatory demands are unlikely to let up soon. In the Benchmarking report, 99 percent of U.S. executives surveyed said they expect compliance costs to worsen or, at best, hold steady over time. Ninety-eight percent of respondents anticipated their compliance burden to increase or remain the same. (Overwhelming majorities of Canadian executives shared these sentiments.)

New challenges bring rewards

Considering these five momentous trends – not to mention the ongoing expansion of the CFO role – it’s clear 2014 wasn’t easy for financial executives. But there is a silver lining: As their prominence increases, demand for talented accounting and finance professionals remains strong and salaries are on the rise.

What major developments impacted your organization the most in 2014? Share your comments below.