In our series of interviews with “Women in Tech”, today in focus: Loreal R. Jiles, Director of Research – Digital Technology & Finance Transformation, IMA. Loreal works hands-on with leading and emerging digital tools, engages with leaders in the management accounting profession, and delivers research and resources that enable the upskilling of accounting, finance, and business professionals. Her passion for the development of future accountants and current accounting & finance professionals shines through the choices she has made outside of work. Here we go!
TECHx: Please tell us about the role you handle and how you arrived at IMA as Director of Research – Digital Technology & Finance Transformation?
Loreal: I worked for nearly 15 years in the energy industry in finance, accounting, technology, and transformation roles. As a proud accounting graduate and management accountant, I have been an active member of IMA my entire working career. In 2019, after years of collaborating with IMA volunteers and staff members to advance the profession, I was elected to be a part of the IMA Global Board of Directors. My time on the board revealed that my contribution to advancing our profession could magnify ten-fold if I worked at IMA. So, I left my career in the energy industry and took advantage of a unique opportunity to leverage my experience with the marriage of finance transformation and digital technology. In my current role, I work hands-on with leading and emerging digital tools, engage with management accounting practitioners and academics across the globe, and deliver research and resources that enable the upskilling and strengthened value delivery of accountants and financial professionals in the business.
TECHx: What are the big technological or customer experience changes you foresee in the financial industry over the next couple of years?
Loreal: I am a dedicated believer in Amara’s law: Roy Amara, an accomplished researcher and futurist stated, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” I believe this applies quite broadly. Although the capability of existing technology is already sufficient to transform the work of the finance and accounting profession, the digital aspect of our profession’s transformation has not progressed as quickly as has been projected in recent years.
Over the long run, I firmly foresee data science having the most revolutionary effect on the way the finance function delivers value and insights to the businesses they support and interact with. This includes data analytics, artificial intelligence, data visualization, modeling, and interconnectivity of data. Once finance teams fully embrace these, benefits will be reaped through increased transparency, greater data accessibility, and timelier, data-backed insights for internal and external finance customers.
Over the next couple of years, I believe the adoption of automation tools will increase significantly within finance. Specifically, I believe traditional automation, native automation solutions within accounting and ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) systems, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) along with other business process automation tools will have a great impact on finance. In an IMA poll of 1,500 finance and accounting professionals, 34% of respondents identified RPA as the emerging technology that will have the greatest impact within the next 3 years.
TECHx: We have heard about your passion for the development of future accountants and current accounting & finance professionals. How do you hope to contribute towards upskilling of accounting, finance, and business professionals?
Loreal: Technology advances and increased business demand for strategic decision support have prompted the accounting and finance profession to transform. In addition to embracing digital technology, the profession is shifting its primary focus from value stewardship to value creation. This focus requires greater familiarity with digital technology, development of advanced analytics skills, increased focus on strategy and risk management, more collaboration of diverse talent, and agility.
Since joining IMA, I have conducted research, delivered presentations, published material, and developed courses on digital technology, agile and scrum project management adapted to accounting and finance processes, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. I intend to leverage the platform available at IMA to reach as many students and professionals across the globe as possible to ensure they have access to the tools needed to develop the skills that will lead to long term successful careers in the profession of the future.
TECHx: As a woman in a leadership role, what message do you have for young female colleagues in the industry?
Loreal: Keep learning. Take chances. Pay it forward. The accelerated pace of change in the business world will not slow down anytime soon. We must adopt a mindset of continuous learning so we are better positioned to add value and tackle challenges that we cannot anticipate. I took chances. I had a finance and accounting background but a 60-minute overview session about RPA changed the trajectory of my career. My constant curiosity, commitment to continuous learning, and willingness to take chances presented opportunities I might never have had. There were also leaders ahead of me who challenged me, provided stretch or growth opportunities and gave me space and tools to develop and learn. These leaders paid it forward. Many leaders today are prepared to pay it forward to the next generation as well. This is my commitment to young female colleagues in the industry. Be persistent. Defy the odds.