Hylton Lecture Series: Megatrends and the Future of Accounting

3.30.2012 Article, General, School News

For today’s accounting students, looking into the future will be key to their success.

"The more you think some of these trends, I think the more you begin to think sort of strategically about where you are and what you’re doing and what you’re going to do next,” said Jan Williams, the featured speaker of the 2012 Hylton Lecture. Williams is the Dean of the College of Administration at the University of Tennessee.

Williams said students need to pay attention to the “megatrends” affecting global business and infrastructure and ultimately how they will affect the accounting industry. Williams outlined several trends he thinks will have the most impact, including developments in technology, the financial industry and in globalization.

“Megatrends will significantly impact you as an individual and they’ll impact your career,” said Williams.

Williams said students need to consider their careers in terms of these megatrends – things like the proliferation of information, privacy issues, global competition and about changing financial markets.

“We don’t think students hear this enough about the commitment the profession has to providing the public benefit and in exchange for that society bringing to that group certain lean to autonomy,” said Williams. “The social contract we have places accountants in positions of trust.”

That means the profession needs to be even more attune to global trends and how they are affecting the accounting industry. Recent financial failures have placed the profession under increased scrutiny, global competition is rapidly increasing, and as international business continues to grow, financial reporting standards continue to be a challenge.

“They require those of us in this profession to do more than simply than apply technical rules, we have to think effectively, we have to be problem solvers.”

Students need be willing to adapt in a changing marketplace. “I think you can expect to make several career changes,” he said. “You need to be willing to move in new, different and unexpected directions.”

Having a career plan is important, but being flexible is just as essential. Williams also encouraged students to value breadth in their education, pursuing additional courses in areas like the social sciences. But what is most important for students to remember is their education doesn’t stop after graduation.

“There’s a reason when you finish college and you go across the stage and get your diploma, they call it a commencement,” said Williams. “It really is a beginning of the rest of your life. “

The Hylton Lecture Series in Accountancy was established in 1980 to honor Delmar P. Hylton, who started Wake Forest’s accountancy program in 1949 and helped build it into one of the top accounting programs in the nation before retiring in 1991. He died in December 2008.