The South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) hosted its second Accounting iNdaba on the 4th and 5th of November.
“The Accounting iNdaba provides a platform to prepare professional accountants for the demands 4IR and other emerging trends will place on the profession over the next decade,” said Shahied Daniels, Chief Executive of SAIPA.
4IR refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that is, the use of new technologies, especially AI-enabled machines and processes, to boost efficiencies in trade and industry.
To be future-ready, accountants need to adapt to this new environment and evolve by gaining additional skills and deepening their knowledge of technological developments. All accountants will need to adjust to stay ahead of the curve. To succeed, they must do this intentionally – by design – in an agreed-upon direction.
The inaugural event, held last year at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, was a resounding success, promising the iNdaba’s regular annual return.
Due to the current pandemic, the function was presented virtually through an online conferencing service.
The theme of the Accounting iNdaba was Hindsight > Insight > Foresight.
Its purpose is to emphasise the transition of accounting from a strictly administrative function to a value-added strategic advisory service.
“Corporate financial processes and the quantification of accounting data will become more automated,” said Daniels. “Rather than making accountants redundant, this frees them to provide business context to the resulting data and direct organisations towards its meaningful strategic application.”
Fundamental to all future successful accounting firms will be embracing technology developments to improve practice efficiencies, enhance how clients are serviced, and expand the range of services provided.
Accounting practitioners should look at the rise of AI, for example, not in terms of potential job loss, but the elimination or evolution of tasks; this approach will lead them to focus on the opportunities new technologies bring. Professional judgement will remain essential to advising clients and adding value.
On both days, international and local industry experts spoke on topics covering a variety of concerns.
These included how technology would change the way business is carried out, how this would affect the services expected of accountants, and what competencies they would need to acquire to respond effectively to future demands.
Of note was guest speaker Daniel Susskind, co-author of The Future of Professions and international expert on the effects of technology on professional services. His message was that, ultimately, accountants should not use technology to do their work more efficiently. Rather, they should develop completely new approaches to solving their clients’ problems.
“We are telling SAIPA members that accountants must not do things differently but do different things,” said Daniels. “Daniel Susskind articulated this idea concisely.”
It was also apparent that accountants would need to acquire competency in data analytics to respond to new information requirements and create value from it for their clients and employers.
“Businesses will want their accountants to explain what the numbers mean and what to do about it,” said Arthur Goldstuck, guest speaker and CEO of the technology research firm, World Wide Worx.
The first day of the Accounting iNdaba ended with Daniels and Professor Rashied Small, Executive of Thought Leadership, launching the Institute’s Centre of Future Excellence (CoFe).
The Centre’s purpose will be to gather research and identify emerging trends in business and the accounting profession. It will use this data to develop education, training and promotional programmes for the profession.
Its opening was accompanied by the Centre of Business Advisory (CoBA), along with the new SAIPA designation of Professional Business Advisor (SA). The Institute also launched its revamped Centre of Tax Excellence (CoTE).
“Each Centre focuses on specialised competency needs of the Future-Ready Professional Accountant,” said Daniels.
A successful event
According to Daniels, the event went smoothly. “Of course, we expected some issues but everything went according to plan with excellent technical continuity throughout,” he said.
SAIPA’s Accounting iNdaba will return next year.
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