Interview

25 March 2019

Becoming multi-skilled professionals to address an avalanche of new data

Picture today’s audit and accountancy profession as standing on the edge of a mountain. The mountain is real, and it is called digitalisation. “We have to face it. It’s just a question of deciding how quick and easy we want this journey to be,” says Thomas Thoomse Smith, Project Director at the UK’s Financial Reporting Council Lab.

An avalanche of new data

He views the digitalised future as having an increasing variety and quantity of data. This will be much more than the financial information that many of today’s auditors and accountants can handle. It will include data on the environmental footprint of a company or its human resources.

“Where does the root of the word ‘auditor’ come from? It comes from the words ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. Hearing the financial story of a business is one aspect. Listening to the wider information around a business is another thing,” explains Thomas.

Which route to take?

Thomas sees a clear, necessary direction for the profession: “We need a significant evolution of the role of accountant and auditor. We’ve got to expand on our current expertise and skills to be able to create value from these new forms of information. Including data on the environment or consumers will give us important insights into a business.”

Digital Day 2018 talked about the ‘expectation gap’ – the gap between what people think our profession does and what it actually does. A lot of the potential services we could offer in the future sit within that gap. For example, around wider forms of assurance – being the third-party trust provider for everything from AI systems to blockchain.”

How to climb it?

In Thomas’ view, walking away isn’t an option. “We have to evolve our skills and mindset to work out how to make the best use of new, non-financial data, or it’s going to call into question the very role of accountants and auditors. Our clients are already starting to use artificial intelligence and other digital technologies. They need us to be competent and comfortable with it too.”

How can the profession climb the digital mountain?

The optimal accountant

He has a clear idea of how to seize lasting value from digitialisation: “We need to quickly evolve to become multi-skilled professionals. At our core, we are experts in our profession and its standards. Layered around this core, will be a very wide skill set, which will understand a business while considering its human capital, climate metrics and data technology.”

“As you gain more expertise via professional development, you start to create overlapping layers of skills. This is where you start to get the ideas that can lead to impressive developments and innovations, leading to new services and value.”

Related content

UpdateTechnology

29 March 2019

InterviewDigitalisation: reporting is an art, not a science

22 January 2019

InterviewDigitalisation – Caretaker & developer: the new accountant

14 December 2018

InterviewDigitalisation: let empathy and trust rule

26 November 2018

InterviewDigitalisation: don’t fight the change

26 October 2018

InterviewStop the busy work and go digital

19 September 2018

InterviewDigital companies need better and faster financial advice

19 September 2018

NewsDigital Day – What was it all about?

19 September 2018

UpdateTechnology

17 June 2019

InterviewDigitalisation: auditing more than financial data

16 April 2019

Update SME

8 April 2019

UpdateTechnology

29 March 2019

Consultation responseOECD’s public consultation on the Tax Challenges of the Digitalisation of the Economy

7 March 2019

InterviewAuditors, bitcoin and the need for mutual trust

25 February 2019

PublicationEuropean single electronic format (ESEF)

18 February 2019

UpdateTechnology

11 February 2019

InterviewDigitalisation: reporting is an art, not a science

22 January 2019

UpdateTechnology

18 December 2018

InterviewDigitalisation – Caretaker & developer: the new accountant

14 December 2018

InterviewDigitalisation: let empathy and trust rule

26 November 2018

UpdateTechnology

8 November 2018

InterviewDigitalisation: don’t fight the change

26 October 2018

EventDigital hour webinar: the new role for accountants

17 October 2018

EventGovernance and fighting fraud and financial crime in the Digital Era

15 October 2018

UpdateTechnology

3 October 2018

PublicationTechnology Hub

24 September 2018

BlogReality check – Technology is changing us

19 September 2018

InterviewStop the busy work and go digital

19 September 2018

Sign up for our newsletter