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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Alex Campbell

Why Singapore's accountants need to embrace the cloud before they can take advantage of AI

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

Singapore climbed the rankings to be the second most cloud ready environment in Asia, according to the latest edition of the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) Cloud Readiness Index.

This follows a series of strategic investments by the government into technology infrastructure, such as appointing public sector agencies to manage cybersecurity, and the launch of initiatives such the Smart Nation drive to support better living using technology.

Singapore’s accounting industry, like many others, can significantly benefit from a cloud ready environment. There have been major technology changes on a global scale in the last few years, and the introduction of the cloud has enabled connectivity between accountants, businesses, and banks that never existed before.

With information flowing automatically and securely between systems, the need to spend hours toiling over manually enter data entry to meet compliance and tax deadlines is disappearing. Thanks to the cloud, Singapore’s accountants can free up their valuable time and resource. This trend is likely to continue as advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning start to give us usable tools.

Earlier this year, global accounting firm PwC published the results of a study into what they refer to as the ‘AI revolution’, and how this will impact today’s businesses. Their findings show that AI will drive global GDP 14% higher by 2030, adding an extra US$15.7 trillion to the global economy - more that the current output of China and India combined.

Benefits of AI to the financial and professional advisory industries include better fraud detection and anti-money laundering capabilities, personalised financial planning and the seamless automation of mundane, routine processes.

First things first 
But before accountants and bookkeepers can leverage AI benefits, they first have to embrace the cloud.

Firms who are not moving their practices into the cloud, will fall behind as newer technologies and tools emerge. Those that are moving into the cloud now are not only primed to take advantage of these technologies, but are also ensuring that their business models are innovating to remain competitive and to ensure that they continue to provide their clients high value services.

These accountants are enhancing their workflow. By freeing up the time they would have previously spent on manual data entry, they can now focus on interpreting this data to provide strategic business advice to their clients. And automating data entry is not just saving accountants time; it’s providing them with higher integrity data with which to advise their clients - significantly boosting the value of their overall service.

Are robots stealing jobs?
Automating processes that have previously been managed by people has led to concerns that ‘the robots are taking our jobs’, but in fact these technologies are opening up major opportunities for businesses growth. Accountants should be looking at how they can harness these new technologies to improve their efficiency and forge better relationships with their clients.

Accountants who can interpret data and who know how to translate it into meaningful, actionable insights for their clients will never be replaced by a programme or software. Creative, lateral and analytical thinking will continue to set people apart from machines.

Staying ahead of the curve
Technology is rapidly changing traditional industries, including accounting. Singaporean practices that will achieve sustainable success in this new environment will be those that leverage the benefits of operating in such a forward-looking, technology driven environment and adapt by utilising the tools technology offers - starting with the cloud.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Alex Campbell

Alex Campbell

Alex is the managing director for Asia, leading Xero’s growth into Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines and Malaysia and across the Asia region. Alex brings together a background in technology with a passion for helping small businesses grow and thrive. Prior to joining Xero, Alex was executive director, Asia at ASX-listed STW Group, responsible for corporate strategy, M&A and business development for Asia markets. 

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