Good morning and welcome to MIA’s annual AccTech Conference that aims to drive digital transformation in the profession, so that accountants can create more value for business and better support business continuity and sustainable nation building.
The theme of AccTech 2021 is Embracing Technological Changes. Let me share MIA’s journey in Digital Advocacy Journey. 2015, MIA has collated data on the impact of IR4.0 to the Accountancy profession and we observed responses from the Accountancy Professionals during conferences and trainings which discussed the topic. In 2017 MIA conducted a survey on Technology Adoption and in 2018 we issued out the MIA DTBP as a guide to contextualise the impact of IR4.0 to different sectors guided by the MIA Digital Technology Blueprint. That was the beginning of the profession’s digital transformation journey. Now we are in the implementation stage: MIA is advocating for accountants to adopt and integrate digital tools into the way that we work, in order to be more productive, more efficient and deliver relevant value to our customers and stakeholders.
Every year, in my remarks at AccTech, I like to set the scene by referencing the key digital developments and trends for the new year.
At the national level, digital is becoming more prominent. On Friday, 19 February, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched MyDigital — the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint.
MyDigital is a new and comprehensive approach to existing information and digital technology initiatives including the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). It sets the foundation for the country’s transformation into a regional digital pulse by 2030.
The Digital Economy Council chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will establish the policies, and monitor the strategies, initiatives, and implementation of Malaysia’s digital economy.
It appears that there will be centralisation of efforts as the council will be the sole entity for digital oversight, which will take over all existing digital and technology-related committees to facilitate coordination and avoid duplication of tasks.
My digital focuses on six clusters, namely Economy, Society, Emerging Technology, Digital Talent, Digital Infrastructure and Data and Government. MIA and the profession will be working within the clusters of Economy, Digital Talent and Emerging Technology as we are strongly advocating for accountancy technology platforms to drive automation, business intelligence and decision-making, and Data and Government, where we advocate digitalisation to support better public financial management and service delivery.
Another initiative that will be central to transitioning everybody into the digital economy while protecting data privacy and security is the implementation of the country’s biometric National Digital Identity (NDI) framework, which will be used alongside the MyKad. The NDI is an electronic verification of an individual’s identity based on biometric characteristics such as fingerprints, face recognition, iris and demographic information such as names and dates of birth.
The NDI is intended to prevent cyber-issues such as identity fraud and document falsification and enable a single digital identity to be used for access to electronic healthcare records and online Government services, for digital KYC (Know Your Customer) by financial institutions and authentication for government benefits distribution, among others. Put another way, the NDI is very important to enable connectivity of various transaction systems to facilitate the users anywhere and anytime.
At the international level, MIA also keeps a close watch on the digital transformation trends and developments, as these are borderless and will definitely have an impact on the profession’s performance and relevance to business and society.
The following are some of the key digital transformation predictions for 2021, according to Daniel Newman, principal analyst of Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, writing in Forbes . You will also see iterations of these ideas in other current research on digital trends.
In the interests of time and relevance, I want to focus on the trends that are most important for the profession and what will be feasible and available for the profession in Malaysia.
Number one, 5G. If you bought a new phone recently, it probably is 5G-ready. PCs and notebooks in future will be always connected, equipped with full connectivity via 5G and/or LTE to support remote work more effectively.
Government and infrastructure providers are beginning to roll out the infrastructure and services in the global 5G race. Locally, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has committed to rolling out 5G technology by the end of 2022 or early 2023. The implementation would be with detailed planning and targets as stated in the National Digital Network Plan (Jendela).
5G will deliver more reliable connectivity and more bandwidth, essentially more power, that will enable the Internet of things, more services and devices that will facilitate our work and lives. For example, the use of IoT-connected drones for inventory and stocktakes.
In the meantime, the focus is on improving connectivity of 4G to bridge the digital divide, especially among urban and rural communities. This will ensure that the less privileged among the B40 and M40 categories will not be short-changed or left out as Malaysia shifts towards more online learning and remote work requiring videoconferencing and digital collaboration, as a result of COVID-19.
Number two, data. As financial advisors and value creators, accountants must continue to embrace tools for Collection, Visualisation, Analytics and Decision-making on financial data and information. It is equally crucial to develop the skills for data storytelling and communicating with data that will support accountants as influencers and advisors. Another highly useful and upcoming tool is Customer Data Platforms (CDP), which solves the problem of fragmented data by collecting data from all available sources, organising it, tagging it, and making it usable for anyone who needs access to it. For accountants and auditors, this is really useful as we deal all the time with fragmented information from multiple sources.
Number 3, cloud. Businesses are increasingly moving towards Hybrid Cloud, which is a mix of public and private cloud, addressing the challenges of exponential data growth, while also improving privacy, security and compliance. Hybrid cloud makes your cloud infrastructure more agile and adaptable in times of volatility, and ensures your data can be accessed remotely, as in during lockdowns and MCOs. I can’t stress the importance of cloud enough to ensure your business continuity at all times.
Number 4, Cybersecurity. As we become more connected and use more cloud and external services, our risks go up as well. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in e-commerce and online transactions as well as remote work, which means more opportunities for hackers. On this slide, you can see the immensity of attacks and cybersecurity risks.
It is imperative that companies strengthen both their onsite networks and upgrade their cybersecurity strategies to cover home networks and mobile work-from-home devices. Connected to cybersecurity concerns are an increased focus on privacy and confidential computing. We saw massive public outrage on data privacy during the recent exodus from WhatsApp to Signal and Telegram, which are perceived as less invasive. We will also see the rise of confidential computing, which supports privacy and security by encrypting the entire computing process, not just the data, creating additional layers of security around sensitive information.
Number 5. Work from home will continue. The pandemic proved that work can still happen effectively with remote employees, and sometimes even results in improvements in productivity and lower operational costs. For the time being until we reach mass vaccination and herd immunity and probably even beyond, we will continue to see the spread of hybrid models of onsite work and remote work from home.
That’s according to Forbes. MIA’s own observations as well as guidance from the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and similar accountancy and thought leadership bodies show that Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, cybersecurity and blockchain are of great importance and relevance to the profession.
We have designed the AccTech Conference to upskill you on these technologies and share the best practices and feasible and practical solutions and advice for digital transformation. Today’s Conference focuses intensively on AI as a tool to drive automation, productivity and increase the value delivered by the profession. The increasing use of AI by accountancy firms and finance functions will also attract younger talent into the profession.
We have sessions today on Transforming accounting with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and Making auditing work with Artificial Intelligence.
Automation powered by AI is also essential to automate mundane accountancy and auditing processes and free up accountancy talent for higher value-added tasks, such as business advisory and intelligence for decision-making. You can get pointers in the session on Adopting a Future Digital Workforce with Robotic Process Automation.
I would also like to highlight econfirm.my, which facilitates electronic bank confirmations. Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, econfirm.my has made it easier for accountants, auditors, banks and clients to automate the bank confirmation process. Early adopters are now in the first cycle of using econfirm.my for the financial year ended 31 December 2020 and they are encouraging their peers to come on board. These are the benefits of adoption:
Keep up with Global Trends and Local Market Developments
Work Remotely Even During Business Shutdowns
Improve Efficiency and Security
Minimise Risks of Human Error and Optimise Talent
Improve Your Practice Review Rating
Save on Costs
Extensive Support and Handholding
Expert and Tested Technical Infrastructure and Support
AccTech is also creating more awareness on blockchain as a gamechanger for accountancy, through the Panel Discussion on Disrupting Accounting with Blockchain Technology. Blockchain or distributed ledger is the third element in triple entry accounting. Blockchain increases trust and assurance as its distributive ledger technology reduces the risk of tampering and fraud. This makes it very useful not just for business but especially for Government applications to improve public sector transparency and accountability.
Other than today’s panel, we also have CPE programmes on blockchain as well as other digital technologies for the profession’s transformation. MIA has made certain that our members and accountants can access our professional development courses virtually. Do have a look at our CPE Series – MIA Professional Development Trainings
I would also like to invite everybody to attend our MIA International Accountants Conference in June 2021, which will be held virtually. We have calibrated the content and the structure to ensure that our delegates get access to enriched content, accounting-oriented exhibits and prime networking opportunities within our virtual space.
By attending such technology-oriented CPE programmes, our members, accountants and finance professions will be prepared to contribute effectively to businesses in the evolving digital economy. In addition to technology CPE, MIA is also collaborating with global providers, namely Accounting CPD and Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), to bring you e-learning programmes. Our collaboration with Accounting CPD and AICPA is an interesting option as these are courses you can take across the medium-term duration as opposed to seminars/webinars taken in one sitting.
We have designed our CPE such that you will be upskilled on the quotients necessary to achieve digital proficiency – the technical knowledge on the tools, high-level programming knowledge to enable communications and collaboration with the programmers and purveyors of the technologies, and change management skills to help inculcate culture change and adoption of technologies. The last is very critical as your technology can become a white elephant if your staff reject digital transformation instead of embracing it.
As part of our continuing efforts to support digital transformation, we are also ensuring that our expert knowledge and content are archived and accessible online. Apart from the content available on e-Accountants Today (e-AT), MIA launched its e-library in July 2020 and our First Interactive E-Book of the MIA Illustrative MPERS Financial Statements (MPERS), with the First MIA e-reader in Nov 2020. This is of great benefit to all entities using MPERs, which encompasses the majority of SMPs and SMEs. The MPERS e-book is also pivotal to MIA’s strategy of leveraging on digital to improve compliance with standards, and strengthen the quality of financial reporting, auditing of MPERS entities and good governance and trust.
However, I want to caution everybody that digital transformation is not the end-goal. It is a step in our reinvention of accountants to become future relevant.
As IFAC phrases it in their recent publication on Accountancy Skills Evolution – “Professional accountants are the highly strategic, collaborative, problem solvers who will help businesses and Governments—large and small—move forward.”
To do this, accountants must upskill on both hard and soft skills, numbers as well as people intelligence, IQ and EQ, problem solving smarts including judgement and professional scepticism, and leadership abilities. These are also among the baselines put forward in the MIA Competency Framework – which delineates the baseline competencies that accountancy professionals must possess to be productive and relevant. These are also the competencies that MIA imparts and embeds in all our efforts and initiatives, especially our CPE learning programmes. Importantly, MIA always emphasises on the requirement to uphold ethical behaviour and our values of integrity, accountability and trust, to protect the public interest and national interests.
Ladies and gentlemen, MIA is a proponent of strategic collaboration onsite and digitally to deliver results. Today’s AccTech Conference is the culmination of harnessing strategic collaboration with our partners. I would like to thank our gold sponsors – Finsoft Consulting, Metora, Talenox and Gest On Line, and silver sponsor – ACCA as well as our esteemed thought leaders and speakers for making AccTech 2021 possible. I would also like to thank our participants for attending and wish everybody the best on your continuing journey of digital transformation and professional reinvention.
On that note, thank you again. Do enjoy the AccTech Conference 2021 and we will work to bring you more inspiring and revolutionary programmes and initiatives in the future.
Unit 33-01, Level 33, Tower A, The Vertical, Avenue 3, Bangsar South City,
No.8 Jalan Kerinchi, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The use of the word ‘Accountant’
In Malaysia, the word ‘Accountant’ is protected as provided for under the provisions of the Accountants Act 1967 which states that no one can hold himself out or practise as an Accountant unless he is registered as a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants.
‘The Malaysian Institute of Accountants is committed to the observance and practice of the highest ethical standards of the accountancy profession. All PC holders are reminded that under the MIA By-Laws (On Professional Ethics, Conduct And Practice), no person shall practice or hold out anything on audit/tax services without a license approved by the Ministry of Finance. Every PC holder is therefore expected to comply fully with Section B200.1 to B200.6 of the MIA By-Laws (On Professional Ethics, Conduct And Practice) failing which, you may be held liable for unprofessional conduct and disciplinary action may be taken against you.’