How might the shape and scope of accounting firms evolve, given changes in technology, business, society and culture?

Future Firms

Future Firms is a joint project by ICAEW’s AuditFutures Programme & Shift*Base Research to explore the contours of accounting firms of the future.

The economic contribution of professional services firms – from international corporate networks to local accounting practices – is often invisible to the general public but they are in fact deeply rooted in economic and social needs. Their role in business and society is shaped by their historical legacy and their aspiration as a profession to serve the public interest. Like other professions, accounting firms face many challenges in this time of unprecedented change, and there are a variety of views about the future of the firms and their socio-economic role.

Some changes, such as digital transformation, are already on the agenda of many firms, but it is not obvious exactly what these mean, nor are these changes the only ones we can expect to see. Our project aims to encourage conversations within the profession about how it is changing and what effects this might have on individual firms of the future.

Most discussions of the future tend to come from a specific angle that skews predictions towards either new technology, social change or the changing culture of work, for example. Instead, this project seeks to build up a multi-dimensional model of the internal factors changing the nature of the firm, as well as the wider societal factors and changing expectations of the workforce. We hope this can advance understanding of the issues facing future firms, and allow professionals and firms to focus on those they think are most relevant to their work, but without attempting to predict a single picture of the firm of the future.

Browse the Model

Click below to play with the visualisation of our initial model



The project begins with a research study to gather and synthesise accounting professionals’ perceptions of future firms. This will combine roundtable discussions and a web-based survey, which will inform an evolving issue map. Please contact us if you are interested in hosting a roundtable discussion at your firm or sign up to the web-based survey here:


A central part of the research study is the multi-dimensional Future Firm Framework, which is both a tool for dialogue and a method for capturing the outcome of the research. The framework will be represented by a dynamic, interactive issues map that we will update periodically based on participant input, and these can be shared and debated on our blog.


  • Want to suggest existing research or articles to inform the framework? Let us know here.
  • Want to share your views on one of the dimensions of a future firm? Let us know.
  • Want to take part in the research? Sign up!


ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 146,000 chartered accountants worldwide. ICAEW provide qualifications and professional development, share knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession. Twitter: @ICAEW.

AuditFutures is a thought-leadership programme of ICAEW, established to provide a space for innovation and constructive social dialogue and to inspire radical thinking and collaborative action. Twitter: @AuditFutures.

Shift*Base is a think tank focused on the impact of digital transformation and on the societal case for upgrading our organisational models and institutions. Twitter: @Shift_Base.