The impact of Digital and Artificial Intelligence on audit and finance professionals

EU experts discussed how to harness the opportunities offered by these new disruptive technologies at recent joint ACCA-EY conference in Brussels.

A ‘new normal’ is emerging: technology trends in cloud, big data, mobile and social collaboration are converging to change the ways in which we consume information technology resources, share knowledge and experiences, and access products and services. This is also underpinning and influencing developments in cyber security, digital service delivery, robotics, machine-learning, augmented and virtual reality.

Artificial intelligence could be a game-changer for business generally, and final services in particular. But what does it mean in terms of transformation and relevance of both the activity of audit, and of finance professionals?

To address the myths and fears around AI and the role of humans in the value chain, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)  and EY organised a lively roundtable about how to harness the opportunities offered by these new disruptive technologies. Discussions revolved around how data mining / analytics can reinforce the quality of the audit, and how auditing standards will evolve as a result of digital transformation. Speakers also tackled the role of the auditors and finance professionals in embracing change - how to adapt their skills, training and education - as well as the major challenges of big data in auditing, from a “behavioral” auditing perspective.

In her opening remarks, Jeanne Boillet, Global Assurance Innovation leader at  EY provocatively asked the audience: ‘Will embracing AI mean replacing humans? AI can help automating routine tasks to allow finance and audit professionals to focus on exceptions, insights and higher-value work. Investing in Artificial Intelligence means investing in people.’

This was echoed by Ivana Maletić, MEP, who stressed: ‘To achieve better performance, time planning, productivity and efficiency, we need to combine new knowledge, specialized skills and talent with digital technologies and AI -  all must be part of the equation.

‘Human capital is essential in this process. We should do a lot in reforming our educational systems so that people are no longer afraid of digital and AI.  The EU is very slow to make developments in theses areas. We have the New Skills Agenda, but this framework should be improved and deepened. We need to identify the main challenges, elaborate on possible scenarios, prepare efficient strategies and policy frameworks, and discuss future possibilities’.

The debate confirmed that Data analytics and AI can have significant benefits for audit quality and create opportunities, but also  risks in relation to the audit process. Digital and AI tools will be critical to meeting the need to constantly review the expectations around audit and assurance.

Andrew Gambier, Head of Audit and Assurance at ACCA concluded that ‘a good understanding of risk is essential to the audit process.  New technologies bring new types of risks for auditors.  These risks may be unfamiliar and therefore difficult to assess. Auditors need to be nimble in considering where there could be risks of material misstatements.’

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About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centres and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

 

"A good understanding of risk is essential to the audit process. New technologies bring new types of risks for auditors. These risks may be unfamiliar and therefore difficult to assess. Auditors need to be nimble in considering where there could be risks of material misstatements."

Andrew Gambier, head of audit and assurance - ACCA