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Frontiers in Fintech

Emily Bowles Audit Associate at KPMG and member of CASSL discusses how FinTech affects accountancy students.

September 2021

One of the first frontiers in the field of Financial Technology was breached with Microsoft’s release of Excel in 1985, though perhaps unknowingly. Could Charles Simonyi, Excel’s founder and creator, have predicted the multitude of hours of accountant’s lives that have been lived in Excel? Even then, there were whispered threats of technology facilitating the impending obsolescence of the accountancy profession. Certainly, FinTech has vastly changed the bookkeeping profession with Quickbooks, Sage and Intuit providing commercial double entry software systems since the 1980’s. However, accountancy has continued to thrive, with CCAB worldwide membership growing close to five hundred thousand. Throughout this change the role of the accountant has remained influential, utilising advances in technology to provide higher levels of input and insight into financial data in practice and in industry.

As we approach the precipice of another FinTech frontier, with the exponential growth of technology companies all vying to disrupt the finance market with streamlined processes, higher utilisation of data and the automation of low skilled repetitive tasks. Forward looking accountants are experimenting with artificial intelligence, machine learning, distributed ledgers, advanced data analytics and robotic process automation to perform their reconciliations, update their forecasts, organise their budgets and account for the veracity of the underlying financial information.

Accountant’s roles, therefore, must and will change. Whilst the future of new technology remains unpredictable, accountants will continue to demonstrate their value by staying abreast of FinTech’s advances and understanding the application of these technologies on their profession.

For training accountants beginning their career on this precipice, a positive regard for continued professional development is vital to remain competitive. Trainee tax specialists should be closely following the digitalisation of tax, young industry professionals should be competent in the use of cloud accounting; and audit juniors should understand the growing role of AI in statutory audits. All accounting professionals should be following the rise of distributed ledger technology and the potential for a new form of ledger system, one with increased permanence and candour.

The speed of FinTech development may seem daunting to training accountants, combined with limited resources providing detailed information about the practical impacts on a junior professional’s day-to-day work. CASSL aims to increase clarity on the relevance of FinTech for those starting in the profession and provide tailored material to enhance junior accountants’ confidence in financial technology.

To demonstrate CASSL’s drive to promote FinTech literacy among ICAEW students we will be hosting three Panel Discussion events with industry leaders in the field of Financial Technology. Throughout the first three weeks of October you will have the opportunity to question and discuss the exploration into FinTech and the changing role of the accountant with professors from the London School of Economics, the Founder of Z/Yen, Directors at OneStream Software and published technology experts within the ICAEW. The three Panel Discussions will revolve around Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Intelligent Automation; Data Analytics; and Distributed Ledger Technology so ICAEW students can understand how FinTech will directly impact their accountancy role and gain insights into areas to upskill for the final frontier.

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