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Future of technology for accounting professionals

The accounting industry and profession in Malaysia has identified high cost (69.9%), lack of talent (59.5%), and lack of understanding of the benefits of technology (54.8%), as among the top barriers to the adoption of technology in the industry.

This perception was discovered during a survey of over 1000 MIA members, and then highlighted during MIA’s Public Practice Forum 2017, in November.

While moderating a panel session titled “Technology Future of Public Practice Firms”, Media Prima’s Chief Transformation Officer, Alain Boey, also pointed out that of its 34,000 members only 1052 MIA members had participated in the survey.

Boey, a chartered accountant and MIA member, observed, “MIA can play a bigger role in educating (its members) about technology trends, and collaborating to spread news about the advantages of technology.”

Interestingly, MIA members acknowledge that business benefit (74.6%) and demand from the business (71.2%), are the top drivers for technology adoption.

The 31-40 age group made up the majority of respondents (409 or 39%), while the 41-50 age group was the second biggest segment with 330 respondents or 31.37%. The below 30 segment comprised 13.9% or 146 of total respondents.

Also of note, was the type of technology that generated most interest. Big data and analytics ranked high at 72.05%, followed by analytics-based financial solutions (55.3%), and automation (53%).

So, it was probably no coincidence that founder of MyFinB, Global Head of Advisory Solutions for Artificial Intelligence, M. Nazri, was a panel member, during that MIA event. He was joined by Steven Chong, Chairman of the Digital Economy Taskforce at MIA.

Analytics in finance and accounting

Nazri pointed out the use of analytics in the finance sector, for instance banks needing to quickly make decisions about which SMEs to give loans to. He said, “Accountants rely on financial statements of companies who go through loan applications, for example. So, analytics technology is an opportunity for accountants to support the financial industry.”

Such is the potential analytics has in the finance space, that MIA had recently signed an MoU with MyFinB, to collaborate in four large areas – capacity building for artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, to identify pain points in the industry, to develop an AI lab or centre of excellence within MIA to explore development of IP assets in AI, and to implement measures within their members’ organisations.

Chong, who is also a chartered accountant, shared that are there are immediate benefits to applying analytics on top of generated audit reports. He said, “It enhances what we can tell (accountants’) clients, as well as enhance the level of benchmarking and rating.”

Nazri also pointed out that AI-based audit solutions are already on Malaysian shores. “We are organising calls for people in Canada who are selling retail versions of this, and its gathering interest from members to look at demos.

“It’s scary. This technology is available to us right now, easily accessible, and not even expensive.”

Chong echoed this sentiment of massive technology adoption in finance and payments sectors, sharing how a local retail chain had taken ten days to roll out AliPay facilities at all their outlets, nationwide. “For 7-eleven, it took only two days.

“That’s the kind of speed some of our members in SME segment are reacting to technology. It’s also about survival.”

MIA is currently drafting a blueprint for accountants in a digital economy, taking into account evolving scenarios in terms of structure of businesses, strategy, and operations.

For example, with traditional business models, services rendered are fee-based and attached to human labour that address the needs of clients. But, fees are getting lower, so there has to be a rethink of business models.

Also, professional services like law firms are starting to target startups as potential clients, and the accounting profession may follow this path as well, if they haven’t already.

 

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