AI and Big Data at ICAEW 2018 Regional Thought Leadership Roadshow

22:01 | 07/05/2018

In its mission to contribute to the financial development and accounting professions and the economies of Southeast Asian nations, ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) chose Vietnam as the first destination for its regular quarterly Regional Thought Leadership Roadshow.

ai and big data at icaew 2018 regional thought leadership roadshow

Kirstin Gillon addressing the workshop in Ho Chi Minh City

In Vietnam, the fourth installment of this series took place in April, covering a number of topical issues, including artificial intelligence and the future of the accounting profession, disruptive digital technologies in business, global technological trends in business, artificial intelligence and Big Data, and the intriguing topic of the potential impact of technology on accounting.

The “Artificial intelligence and Digital Disruption” workshop, a key component of the International Thought Leadership Roadshow, drew the attention of public agencies, major organisations, and scholars from various universities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. To offer participants as much useful information as possible, this year’s workshop was jointly organised by ICAEW and IBM, a global leader in artificial intelligence research and development.

Speaking about the accounting profession in the era of artificial intelligence (AI), Kirstin Gillon, technical manager of ICAEW’s IT faculty said: “AI will profoundly transform the role of the accountant-auditor of the future. AI will help the accountant focus on the real values of this occupation. The role of the accountant and auditor in the AI era is no longer that of just a book-keeper, but rather that of someone who makes accurate decisions and helps the organisation thrive and guarantees the accountability of stakeholders.”

Kirstin, who is at the forefront of AI research and development in the accounting and auditing profession and serves the organisation’s associates globally, said: “At ICAEW, we are testing this technology to see how it can help us operate and stay connected with our members and students more effectively, as well as allow ICAEW staff to save time for what really matters.”

“While we focus on key technologies, most of these technologies are meant to increase the pace of accounting activities and cut costs rather than fundamentally transform the accounting profession. There are four technologies, however, that may bring disruptive changes to the accounting profession: AI, blockchain (accounting ledger), cyber risk, and data,” she said.

As she put it, technology offers an opportunity for the accounting profession to take on a more empowered role in the organisation and help businesses make more informed, data-based judgments, which will be the way forward for the accounting profession. These technologies can do manual-intensive reporting jobs and accountants can spend more time on higher value tasks, such as data analysis. To that end, the accountant in the digital age will be like an interface between the sales team and technical team, adding value to the organisation.

With the changing roles, accountants also need to be more innovative than in the era of traditional accounting. “The required skills for the accountant in the digital future should be professional, technical, data, and statistics skills, and ‘soft’ skills, such as communication, critical thinking, and the ability to adapt to changes and learn new skills,” Kirstin said.

ai and big data at icaew 2018 regional thought leadership roadshow

Vu Ngoc Hoang talking at the workshop in Hanoi

Vu Ngoc Hoang, IBM Vietnam’s software solution architect, in his presentation titled “Digital workers—What will future jobs look like?” also made interesting projections for the accounting profession in a digital future.

He said 66 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises would swap services offered by accountants with cloud services, 50 per cent of SMEs would replace their human accountants if they failed to adapt to cloud technology, simpler tasks like manual entry, book-keeping, annual financial reporting, profit and loss reporting, payroll and financial analysis would be automated and replaced with software.

These numbers are worth noting by educators, students, and learners so that they can adapt in time to the rapid changes in digital technology.

“With our training programmes at ICAEW, we have updated a multitude of new academic disciplines to build analytical skills and we are also considering bringing in data analysis as a field of study because tax accountants and auditors both need to use such technologies,” Kirstin said.

Major auditing firms expected their accountants to have knowledge of and the skills for data, and be able to analyse and control data.

With the increasing cybersecurity risks faced by businesses in the digital age, companies are advised to have in place robust solutions to keep their business information safe. To address this concern effectively, Kirstin believed tech experts and business executives needed to establish close working relations.

Besides speaking at the two main workshops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Kirstin also spoke at the National Economics University addressing technological trends in doing business, and with CFAB students about “New technologies and potential impacts on accounting skills.”

In addition, she also talked about AI and Big Data with accounting, finance, sales, and information technology executives from Viettel Group, Vietnam’s largest information technology and telecommunications company.

ai and big data at icaew 2018 regional thought leadership roadshow

Against the backdrop of Vietnam actively seeking to capitalise on the opportunities thrown up by Technology 4.0 and preparing its economy for take-off, ICAEW’s Thought Leadership Roadshow activities were especially apposite. ICAEW reaffirms its commitment to Vietnam, through its contribution to the country’s accounting and auditing industry as it catches up with new global trends.

The International Thought Leadership Roadshow goes next to other Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Nguyen Huong

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