How automation is transforming the accounting profession
I recently had the pleasure of attending QuickBooks Connect (QBC) in San Jose, California. The trip provided me with the opportunity to network with accountants and bookkeepers around the world, as well as the opportunity to gain foresight into the upcoming trends of accounting in 2018.
One of the presentations that I found most useful was Joe Woodard’s session on creating extreme profitability for the accounting profession. Joe is a leading business transformer, educating, supporting and connecting accounting professionals around the world. As such, it was a great pleasure to hear Joe’s take on the industry.
- Australia and China enter fintech information sharing agreement
- Australian fintech revenue up 208% on 2016 – EY
- KPMG: Sydney could become the fintech hub of APAC
In turn, I’m very pleased to be able to share these key insights from Joe’s presentation on using technology to automate and standardise business practices to maximise profitability.
The automation of data entry, processing and analysis has the whole industry excited about the future and how to integrate these technologies to our advantage. We’ve already adopted source document fetching, optical document recognition (OCR) and data parsing and general ledger integration, among others.
Data automation is coming and will change the accounting industry deeply. This is not a bad thing: it’s about how we prepare for and embrace these technologies to our benefit.
Automation in the accounting industry
In the accounting industry, new automation capabilities are becoming apparent and they are changing our role as accountants for the better (as long as we respond and adjust):
- Mobile apps and imaging devices (such as phone capture and scraped mail)
- Integrated operational systems (warehouses, field services and point of sale)
- Outsourced and integrated processes (vendor bills, customer invoices and payroll)
- Financial institutions (bank feeds and credit cards to general ledger)
Three steps to greater efficiency
Joe also gave an indication of what he sees as the greatest steps to increasing efficiency and tackling the future head-on:
- Leverage new technologies to greater effectiveness and efficiency
- Stay ahead of the machines (interpretative, socialised and specialised services)
- Adapt in ways no one can predict
Standardisation is the key factor in leveraging new technologies. It enables efficiency, consistency of client experience, scalability, capitalisation of firm knowledge, and transition of roles and responsibilities. To enable standardisation, a number of things are required: determining your specialisation; mapping processes; automating processes; documenting processes; developing a team; training and over-manage adoption of new processes; and improving and modifying documentation.
Staying ahead of machines begins with an understanding if you are a knowledge or service worker. However, a hybrid classification is emerging due to the development of technology in the accounting space. As we are a combination of both a knowledge and service worker, accountants can now be referred to as ‘relationship workers’. We measure, interpret, analyse, coach clients and solve problems to transform small businesses.
To embrace and maximise the change that our industry is facing in the future due to data automation, we must embrace and maximise technologies, and we must move beyond our data-driven roles to a role in which we are client coaches and advisors.
By Wayne Schmidt – Practice Advisor, Karbon
Bytedance CFO to TikTok CEO in 5 weeks: who is Shou Zi Chew?
When the world’s most valuable startup ByteDance, owner of TikTok, snatched 39-year-old finance exec Shou Zi Chew from the clutches of Xiaomi back in March, and gave the 39-year-old the financial reins of the US$400bn valued company, it was pretty big news.
Not just because it was the first time Bytedance had employed a CFO or that he had landed the only other C-suite position besides CEO Zhang Yiming, but because rumours were swirling that Beijing-based Bytedance was about to float and Chew, who had previously taken Xiaomi through a successful IPO, was being brought on board to do the same.
However, just five weeks into his role as CFO of Bytedance, with speculation growing as to the when and where of an IPO, Chew, who is a Singapore national, landed the top job (CEO) at TikTok too – a role currently considered to be the biggest job in tech – in addition to retaining his CFO position at parent company Bytedance.
The world's most challenging roles?
That's quite a responsibility. Not just because of the popularity of TikTok (think 689 million users worldwide and the world's most downloaded non-gaming app in the first quarter of 2021) and the revenue of Bytedance (US$37bn in 2020), but because the data privacy complications that TikTok and Bytedance have been enduring for a while now, with Chinese and US governments, are not going away.
Complications that led to the departure of TikTok’s previous CEO, former Disney exec Kevin Mayer after just three months in the job, when during his tenure the US government issued two executive orders within eight days aimed at forcing ByteDance to divest TikTok's operations in the US. This is far from TikTok's, or rather, Chew's only challenge. With India, once TikTok's fastest-growing market, now having banned the platform for political reasons, the challenge for Chew will be, where to grow TikTok?
This will no doubt be a business imperative for Chew, in finding a way to both grow the platform and to restructure the business to meet regulatory requirements both demanded by the US and Beijing. As will taking Bytedance through its initial public offering, something that has been rumoured about. According to Reuters, ByteDance has been considering whether to go for a standalone public listing for Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, or list some of its Chinese operations, including Douyin and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, as a package in Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Why is Chew the man for the biggest job in tech?
So, who is this man with so much responsibility on his Singaporean shoulders? And more importantly, is he up to the job(s)? Well, he's used to working with billionaires, having worked for Russian billionaire Yuri Milner‘s internet investment firm DST for five years. In fact, it was here, at DST, in 2013 that Chew first came across Bytedance and where he led a team as early investors in ByteDance – what was then just a small startup housed in a Beijing residential flat.
Chew's credentials are pretty impressive too. Not only does he have an economics degree from University College London and an MBA from the Harvard Business School, where he spent a summer working for a then startup (Facebook), but his experience in some of the world's top companies straddles both tech and finance.
Chew began his working life in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, where he focused on technology, media and telecoms’ investments, before joining private equity firm DST Investment Management as a partner for five years.
He then joined Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi as Chief Financial Officer, where he was the youngest of the C-suite and where he was not only instrumental in securing much-needed financing from investors, but oversaw the company’s Hong Kong IPO in 2018, one of the largest-ever Chinese tech listings and the first-ever IPO in Hong Kiong Stock Exchange to realise dual-class shares.
He spent six years at Xiaomi before being snapped up by Bytedance. And according to the man who hired him, billionaire founder and CEO of Bytedance, Zhang Yiming, Chew's "deep knowledge of the company and industry” will add "depth to the team, focusing on areas including corporate governance and long-term business initiatives. I believe Chew's accession can help us further expand our global business."
Watch this space.