In 1923, Alfred P. Sloan became CEO of General Motors (GM) during a period of significant challenges. The U.S. automobile industry was consolidating from more than 250 manufacturers and grappling with supply-and-demand disruptions caused by World War I and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. GM faced inefficient management, inconsistent product lines, and intense competition. Sloan implemented a transformative strategy focused on decentralization, granting more autonomy to divisions while maintaining central control over strategic decisions. He introduced a market segmentation approach, offering a car “for every purse and purpose,” which broadened GM’s appeal. He also emphasized innovation and consumer research, enhancing product quality and marketing.

Instead of recreating past governance structures, business models, and processes, Sloan built for the future. These changes revitalized GM, making it a dominant force in the automotive industry, surpassing competitors, and establishing a legacy of managerial excellence that continues today.

Reflecting on the future of the accounting and finance profession, we similarly stand on the brink of an era defined by digital and financial transformation. We also face global social, economic, security, and political challenges unprecedented in complexity and magnitude. Yet, we should not be daunted. It is in these moments of trial that the true mettle of our profession and its practitioners is revealed.

Over the last month, I had the opportunity to participate in two professional conferences—the annual professional development institute of the Society of Defense Financial Management (SDFM), where I serve as chief executive officer, and IMA’s Accounting & Finance Conference, which gave me the opportunity to celebrate my year serving as Chair of the Global Board of Directors.

The theme for the SDFM conference was “Building Unity in the Financial Management Community,” and the theme for the IMA conference was “Inspire Tomorrow.” Both themes underscore our profession's ability to build as a community for the future.

No longer confined to ledgers and spreadsheets, accounting and finance professionals must adapt, evolve, and embrace digital tools. Just as the Industrial Revolution reshaped manufacturing, the digital revolution will reshape our profession. We must lead the charge into this brave new world without losing sight of our core values. Integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct must remain our guiding principles. In an age of increasing complexity and interconnectedness, the trust of our stakeholders is our most precious asset.

The challenges ahead are daunting, but we shall not falter. It is in times of adversity that the true character of an individual, an organization, or a profession is revealed. As Winston Churchill once proclaimed, “This is their finest hour.” And so it is ours. It is time to build on a foundation of community and a vision for the future, confident that our finest hour is yet to come.

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