Good morning. The ongoing shortage of accountants and CPAs is top of mind for CFOs. And it’s leading to big transformations in how companies are conducting their finance operations.

“The struggle is real,” Jenn Ryu, CFO at RGP, a global consulting firm, told me of the shortage. “I’m personally experiencing it.”

Experienced accountants are retiring and students aren’t racing to major in accounting despite plentiful job openings. Accounting is certainly a demanding career, Ryu said. Some recent graduates are joining accounting firms where they’re working a lot of overtime, she said. “Gen Z is looking for more balance,” Ryu added.

A recent analysis by Bloomberg based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds there are 340,000 fewer accountants than five years ago, leaving the number of accountants and auditors employed in the U.S. at approximately 1.6 million.

The significant talent acquisition and retention challenges in the accounting profession are likely to continue throughout 2024, including staffing shortages, according to the AICPA. To address this, the AICPA formed the National Pipeline Advisory Group (NPAG) in July 2023. NPAG consists of accounting professionals, state CPA societies, academics, and regulators. They’re charged with developing a profession-wide strategy for increasing the number of accountants and CPAs. A final report is scheduled to be released this summer. 

Ryu shared with me new RGP data that finds 43% of financial decision-makers said their organization is investing more in end-to-end automated accounting processes and AI tools to counter the accountant shortage. But also in this process, companies are replacing a lot of the mundane, manual work that accountants have to do, which in turn could attract more young professionals into the field, she said. 

However, Ryu notes that she’s also seeing a shortage of mid-to-high-level accountants, “I don’t think that AI is going to replace them,” she said. “I still think that highly skilled accountants are still needed to provide context and to make judgment calls.” 

RGP’s survey, which polled 213 CFOs and finance leaders at the director level or above at U.S. companies earning from $50 million to more than $500 million in revenue, also found that 31% said they are using more consulting talent to transform their finance function. That involves building “the best of both worlds” by creating a finance team that uses technology for mundane practices but also upskills its accountants for a more strategic focus on complex work, she explained. 

The future accountant will be charged with understanding what’s happening in the business and contributing to the company’s strategy. “We’re looking for more well-rounded accountants,” Ryu said. “And accountants with better communication and storytelling skills as well.” 

Sheryl Estradasheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Leaderboard

Jack Hartung, CFO at Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG), has decided to retire. Hartung has served as CFO since 2002. Adam Rymer, a 15-year Chipotle veteran, will assume the role of CFO beginning Jan. 1, 2025. Rymer joined Chipotle in 2009 and currently serves as VP of finance. Hartung has served as a mentor to Rymer during his entire tenure at the company. Hartung will continue in his current position through the end of the year and will remain with Chipotle until March 31 for a transition period. 

Brian Dykes was named EVP and CFO at UPS (NYSE: UPS) effective immediately. Dykes succeeds Brian Newman, CFO since 2019, who left the company on June 1 for medical reasons. Dykes has spent more than 25 years with UPS, most recently serving as SVP of global finance and planning, since April 2023. Before that, he held positions of increasing responsibility within the company’s finance and accounting, corporate treasury, mergers and acquisitions, business intelligence, and business development functions, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Big Deal

McKinsey has released a new report, Embracing generative AI in credit risk. The firm recently surveyed senior credit risk executives from 24 financial institutions, including nine of the top 10 U.S. banks. McKinsey asked about their organizations’ adoption of gen AI, its current use cases, their future plans for it, and challenges.

The research found that 80% of credit risk organizations expect to implement gen AI technologies within a year. Of those organizations, 20% already have at least one use case implemented. “As these financial institutions gear up to use gen AI, they are considering potential applications across the full credit life cycle,” according to the report.

Going deeper

What’s the state of the stock market in 2024? That is the topic of conversation in the latest edition of Wharton’s Ripple Effect podcast featuring Wharton finance professor emeritus Jeremy Siegel. His bestselling book, Stocks for the Long Run, was first released in 1994 and is now in its sixth edition. Siegel explains what has changed in investment strategies, and what remains the same.

Overheard

“The winners of this next phase of the AI Revolution will be those tech vendors that are able to monetize their installed bases with new AI platforms enabling customers to find clear value and data driven use cases built off generative AI models/applications.”

—Wedbush Securities’ tech analysts Daniel Ives, Scott Devitt, Taz Koujalgi, and John Katsingris wrote in a July 5 industry note.

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