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, says ACCA Global.
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.’