Firm grasp of finance fundamentals key to accounting professionals.

Technology an enabler to improve efficiency and effectiveness, says Baker Tilly’s Ong.

Joshua Ong is the managing partner of Baker Tilly and also leads the Firm’s Capital Markets and IPO services. He has extensive experience in local and cross-border fund raising, audit, due diligence and investigation engagements for clients in a wide range of industries. He also advises public listed companies on corporate governance, financial controls and risk management solutions.

As a judge in the Management Excellence Awards, Singapore Business Review invited Joshua to discuss how technology has streamlined and automated repetitive accounting tasks, paving the way for the professionals to be elevated to developing strategy, making decisions, and managing risks.

How do you think these challenging times are shaping the careers or roles of accountants and the accounting industry?

Many businesses across industries suffered financially and needed solutions to navigate through these challenging times. The expertise of accountants is more crucial now than ever.  As companies make difficult decisions about their operations, adjust their business models or even restructure their businesses, critical insights into the financial health of the companies, and assessment of the potential financial impacts of those proposed decisions on the companies will be needed. Accountants should not be confined to financial reporting at the back office, but part of the change management team to seek innovative solutions and help chart companies’ growth and development.  This is an opportunity for accountants to reinforce their position as trusted advisors to businesses. 

Has technology made accounting easier or has it created more jobs and higher expectations?

Technological advancement has been transforming many parts of our lives, and certainly the Accountancy sector. It has eased the collation of data and information, enabled timely preparation and presentation of financial reporting, and enhanced the ability to analyse and interpret data, efficiently and effectively.

The question of whether accountants will be replaced by robots has been and continued to be debated on. There is no doubt that automation has replaced jobs of manual data entry, repetitive and routine tasks, which are jobs that accountants are glad to move out of. However, 

accountants have embraced technology to alleviate their capabilities to that of supporting the management team in developing strategy, decision making process and risk management.  

How about in the area of audits: how can technology build trust and keep the integrity of audits?

Data-driven technology enhancing how data is used and analysed has been a powerful development impacting the collation of information and analytics that can be performed on the data obtained in the audit process. With automation of the time consuming, mundane, and manual works previously carried out, auditors are now able to focus on the identification of risks, design, and execution of audit procedures that can address these risks more efficiently and effectively. Instead of performing audit procedures on selected samples of transactions, data analytics tools enable auditors to decipher vast volumes of complete data and better understand a company’s operations. With more reliable and detailed insights of the company’s financials, auditors are able to analyse such financial information, applying their experiences and judgement in performing high quality audits. 

In addition, technology has also enhanced the audit process, from documentation of its methodology, risk assessments, and outcome of the audit procedures carried out. The transparency in the auditor’s basis for deriving his conclusion and opinion on the company’s financial statements will result in more confidence and trust in the audit process.

What technical skills should tomorrow’s finance professionals have to stay competitive or adapt to the future?

With the increasing internationalisation and complexities of business operations and transactions, fundamental professional expertise in finance, accounting, and tax will continued to be required to help businesses navigate through new domestic and cross borders’ regulations, issues and challenges. Such skills are core components needed in the formulation of strategy, operational decision making, and risk management.  

Technology is a key enabler to improve productivity and accuracy in financial reporting and the effective use of data for forecasting and predictive analysis of the Company’s operations.  Finance professionals need to be tech-savvy and be kept abreast of the impact of technological advancement on a company’s operations including manufacturing, operations, and commercial.  

How is Baker Tilly evolving to adapt to the digital transformation of finance?

At Baker Tilly, we have developed capabilities to help our clients with digital transformation as a one-stop solution provider from technology redesign to solution support in the following areas: 

  1. With Digital Transformation Consultancy and business process diagnosis, we help companies better identify technology solutions to improve their performances and productivity.
  2. With Enterprise Blockchain Solutions, we develop solutions for businesses to better position themselves in the market and be future proof, and with key focuses on developing technology for financial tools and provenance tracking.
  3. With Digital Asset Audit Support Solution, we provide audit support solutions for companies that deal with digital assets. These solutions will assist businesses to better manage and mitigate their risks in the upcoming digital economy.
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