Categories: SpeechesPublished On: 25/06/2020

Mr Huang Shze Jiun, President, Malaysian Institute of Accountants, MIA Council Members and Regional Chairpersons, MIA Digital Technology Committee Members, Distinguished Speakers, Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Good morning and welcome everyone to MIA’s AccTech Conference.
  2. As this Conference focuses on digital transformation for the profession, it is appropriate that it is being held virtually.
  3. As the COVID-19 counter measures continue, MIA will continue to hold more online events until such time as restrictions are loosened. In the meantime, we will continue to comply with the Government’s SOPs.
  4. Speaking of COVID-19, it has affected the short-term outlook for technology spending, although it’s not a steep decline. Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.4 trillion in 2020, a decline of 8% from 2019 according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
  5. According to Gartner, COVID-19 and effects of the global economic recession are causing companies to prioritise spending on technology and services that are deemed “mission-critical” over initiatives aimed at growth or transformation. In other words, companies are minimising investment and spending on operations that keep the business running. This is understandable because business continuity is the top priority for most organisations through 2020.
  6. Likewise, International Data Corporation (IDC) also says that IT spending will be flat in 2020 due to COVID-19, in its global Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) spending forecast for 2020 – 2023 . IDC Further predicts a divergence in spending, where companies will still spend on traditional technologies driven by cloud, mobile, social and big data/analytics platforms, but this will be eclipsed by spending on new technologies such as robots/drones and AR/VR headsets (in addition to related software and services) as businesses find new use cases and leverage on the rapid growth of IoT in recent years, especially in the manufacturing and industrial sector. IDC also noted that cost savings generated by the traditional technologies of cloud and automation will see more spending diverted towards new technologies such as AI, robotics, AR/VR, and blockchain, in addition to spending on next-genenation security related to these new technologies.
  7. This is not to say that the traditional technologies will be phased out as there is a natural cohesion between the traditional technologies which continue to see growth (cloud, mobile, social and analytics) and new technologies. In fact, emerging markets still need to make investments in areas such as analytics and automation in order to catch up. But the gap between emerging and developed markets is narrowing, according to IDC.
  8. As you can see, technology disruption is a long-term trend that is still intact, and accountants and companies must keep on transforming or risk becoming non-competitive and irrelevant.
  9. Writing in Forbes, futurist Bernard Marr who is ranked as one of the world’s top 5 influencers listed the 25 trends that he predicts will define the decade of the 2020s. These are from his new book: Tech Trends in Practice – the 25 Technologies that are Driving the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  10. All of the topics on our agenda today or relevant to the profession are on Bernard’s list. No 1 is AI and machine learning, No.2 Internet of Things (IoT which is very relevant for manufacturing). No. 4 is Big Data and Augmented analytics. Blockchains, cloud and edge computing, RPA. So, whatever you learn today will be applicable as we move into the next decade.
  11. Ladies and gentlemen, accountants need a new playbook to operate in IR4.0 . The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated the importance of embracing digital technology, as many of those businesses that had embraced technologies such as cloud computing, cloud storage and automated processes earlier on were able to operate remotely and protect their business continuity.
  12. For accountants, the skills and competencies that must be acquired to be digitally literate are automation and artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud computing and storage, data analytics and robotics process automation (RPA).
  13. Other than technological skills, accountants need soft skills, language fluency for communication, articulation and persuasion, leadership qualities, outcome-oriented and creative mindsets geared to problem-solving, to name a few.
  14. Emotional intelligence or EQ will be especially important, and this is the element that separates us from machines. There have been many reports that say that accountants will be obsolete and replaced by robots. MIA’s answer to that is that technologies will take away the repetitive and mundane tasks and human accountants will pivot to providing the higher value services, backed by human ability and the human intelligence. Our role as professionals and supporting professionals is about the human interface and the social experience. People are tribal; we need social interaction and connection. In fact, the United Nations (UN) warned that mental health issues are worsening due to COVID-19 and lockdowns.
  15. Artificial intelligence (AI) is good, but it must be supplemented by emotional intelligence. AI will help gather data and crunch it much faster, but ultimately our clients will still prefer to discuss with a living breathing person, either in person or virtually, because we can bring the Emotional Intelligence. Being proficient in areas like communications, empathy, non-linear thinking and agile leadership, makes us valuable and enables us to connect with the clients we serve.
  16. Today’s AccTech aims to familiarise you with the technologies that are deemed most relevant and impactful to the profession and finance functions, especially those in the manufacturing sector and industries most affected by IR4.0 and the upcoming IoT technologies. Hence, today’s theme of Mobilising Accountants Towards IR4.0.
  17. The sessions today will focus on artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics (BDA), and automation especially robotics process automation (RPA). We selected these sessions based on market intelligence, research as well as the findings from our proprietary surveys. Our second Technology Adoption survey conducted in 2019 showed that our efforts to create awareness and educate members on data and digital technologies are paying off – 52% and 36% of survey respondents indicated to adopt data analytics tools and Artificial Intelligence (AI) respectively in the next three years compared to 35% and 15% respectively in a similar survey in 2017.
  18. MIA strongly encourages that businesses ingrain the use of data to drive decision-making, as data can help companies make optimal decisions which is especially important for business continuity nowadays. Helping our members develop a data-driven culture is part of our digital transformation efforts for the profession as we move forward. Our digital transformation for members is guided by our MIA Digital Technology Blueprint which was launched in 2018 and is being operationalised. These are the principles of the Blueprint which are still very relevant even in these critical times.
  19. The Blueprint and our survey also touched on costs of technology, which is cited as a top barrier for companies. This challenge is very painful now during COVID-19 where understandably many companies face a liquidity crunch. We welcome the Government’s assistance in adopting technology as announced in PENJANA – SME Digitalisation Matching Grant, SME Technology Transformation Fund and Smart Automation Grant. We are currently liaising with the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) on these grants.
  20. I hope that the information shared today will help you to effectively adopt and adapt technologies to meet your own unique business needs. Technology adoption is not for the sake of having the technology, but it has to fit into your business continuity and value creation models for your organisations, in the longer term.
  21. Ladies and gentlemen, before I end, I would also like to invite members to sign up for our other CPE offerings by the Institute. To address the new norms of physical distancing, MIA is developing more virtual learning programmes to meet members’ CPE needs. I am delighted to note that even more expert speakers are eager to collaborate with MIA to offer online CPD programmes and webinars to our members. And thank you very much to our expert speakers who are joining us today.
  22. We have started to see an uptrend in the e-learning take up rate. Thank you very much to everyone for supporting us. Our webinars on topics such as the implications of COVID-19 on taxation, IFRS, business continuity, digital transformation and developing a data-driven culture have received tremendous response.
  23. To improve the quality of our CPE, we have partnered with global professional bodies like CIMA and award-winning providers of online learning (Nelson Croom Ltd) (under its imprint to deliver engaging and on-trend content that is relevant for business and accountants, delivered via a user-friendly and efficient technology platform. Currently, members can access about 147 e-learning courses that span across Accounting Standards, Finance, Practice Management, Management, Technology Education including Technology Certificate Programmes, Risk & Governance, and Soft Skills, and content is being updated regularly.
  24. In the meantime, do have a productive session and thank you once again for joining us.