Date posted: 26/06/2020

The 21st Century Profession

Professions that leverage disruption will continue to make a difference into the 21st century. But they must ensure that their skills and expertise remain grounded on a solid foundation of ethics, trust and integrity.

In brief

  • Findings from The 21st Century Profession point to a healthy future for professions, although the paper recognises that the future looks very different from the present
  • At their heart, professions offer a unique trinity of ethics, expertise and integrity
  • Professions must look forward and continue to adapt to stay relevant and meet new demands

The 21st Century Profession looks at the current state of professions, and examines their strengths and weaknesses, and asks: "where to next"?

Forces such as innovative technologies and global economic uncertainty are disrupting many well-established professions. In the accounting profession data analytics companies have taken over what was formerly regarded as core accounting activities. Similarly, legal-tech for the legal profession. But the news is not all bad, in fact the future looks bright for professions that are agile and willing to adapt.

This disruption provides a catalyst for change and growth alongside an extraordinary opportunity for professions to 'do better, faster'. New technologies are enabling professions to enhance their productivity, improve their service delivery and to add more value to their clients and to society. But a profession loses its reason for being without an ongoing commitment to acting ethically and in the public interest.

The 21st Century Profession points to a healthy future for professions that are willing to adapt, albeit one that is very different from the present.

Drawing on data from two surveys commissioned by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, the paper finds that the public and Chartered Accountants alike view the strength of professions as resting on the unique trinity of expertise, ethics and integrity. All survey respondents ranked adhering to a code of ethics as the most important characteristic of a profession, ahead of expertise and education. Being an expert is expected, but on its own it is not enough. The paper concludes that expertise must be underpinned by ethics and integrity.

Professions must also have a purpose which goes beyond just making a profit to maintain their social licence to operate. People expect professions to act in a socially responsible manner and to be culturally and environmentally aware. 

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