Fast-Tracking Careers in Accounting and Finance: Q&A with Justin Kyriakou from AAT

May 24, 20178:55 am
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With the accelerated pace of change, most job roles are soon becoming obsolete in the automation age. Hence, the role of junior-level professionals into accounts and financial management is slowly ceasing to exist, with automation taking the lead.

This in turn has led many talented professionals to focus on new-age skills development and stay up-to-date with the advancements in technology, to cope with challenges overthrown by the competition. As an outcome of this change, new job roles are also being created especially in accounting and finance sectors, which require professionals to continuously learn and embrace digital in their day-to-day workings.

Through an exclusive candid chat with Justin Kyriakou, International Development Manager at AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), we at HR in Asia, seek insights on how Asians can fast-track their careers into accounting and finance, without the need for prior tertiary qualifications and more…

  • Do you think careers in accounting and finance are at the risk of automation, displacing humans and replacing the need for human intervention?

Accounting and finance have been said to be areas, which may be at risk of automation. However, even though new technologies may mean that the nature of jobs in these sectors will change, there will always be need for skilled human professionals.

Justin Kyriakou, International Development Manager at AAT

Justin Kyriakou, International Development Manager at AAT

The changes that automation brings should be a benefit to accounting and finance professionals, along with their clients. Accountants will be freed from having to do more repetitive basic tasks and will receive more information, which will allow clients to be advised better in ways to help their businesses become successful.

As long as professionals keep their skills up-to-date and stay on top of new technological advancements, they will still continue to have successful careers in the accounting and finance sectors, since there will be many tasks which cannot be done by automation alone. This will actually make the job of a professional more interesting, as they will be able to focus their time on adding value for their clients and businesses.

  • How does qualification from AAT guarantee Malaysians of a career in accounting, without the need for prior tertiary qualifications?

AAT invests in students’ futures, helping them to move up the career ladder, or even launch a whole new career in accountancy. Our in-demand qualifications equip them with the right expertise and confidence needed to succeed in today’s highly competitive finance industry.

  • How is the training curriculum offered by AAT different from others and customised to meet Malaysian workings?

AAT qualifications are based on practical, real-world accounting knowledge that can be put to use from a person’s first day at work. Through our recognised qualifications, students learn to play a key role in business growth. With some other qualifications, many students might only learn the theories of accounting in a classroom, but when they graduate and begin to work, they would eventually find themselves unfamiliar with the tasks to be executed in the actual job.

However AAT’s Accounting Qualifications help bridge the gap between theory and practice, wherein students get to learn, while gaining valuable experience. This means, as soon as they complete their qualifications, they will be work-ready and understand what is expected of them on the job right away.

  • What will be the new age skills training provided by AAT that will prepare accountants, bookkeepers and auditors for digitally automated times, while helping businesses thrive and sustain the growth momentum?

Skills that will be important for accounting professionals in digitally automated times will be soft skills such as communication and presentation skills, which will help when advising clients about data acquired about their business. It will also be important for individuals to possess computing skills, which will help them learn and adapt to new technologies easily.

To help equip professionals with these skills, our AAT Accounting Qualifications help create awareness of new technologies, with increased focus on communications and IT skills to prepare professionals for challenges in the workplace of the future.

The AAT qualification is re-written every three years, to make sure the curriculum stays relevant and up-to-date to meet the changing business needs. As technology evolves, and changes the role of accounting technicians so will the courses at AAT incorporate new trends, practices and methods to stay in sync with change.

See: 5 Key Trends in Singapore’s Accounting Sector for 2017

  • How will harnessing technologies such as big data, analytics, and automation tools influence the job market outlook for accountants in Malaysia?

Any increase in automation of tasks such as entering data, creating electronic documents, and producing receipts could be perceived as a threat to accountants, who are normally entrusted with the responsibility of creating them.

However contrary to these perceptions, I firmly believe that automation will not negatively influence the job market outlook for accountants in Malaysia, but would rather help make accountants’ jobs easier. Automation will leave accounting professionals with more time to focus on higher value-addition tasks such as building relationships and advising clients, by reducing the probability of mistakes and risk of human error.

Accountants will need to move more into the field of data analysis, and be able to use analytics to interpret data gained from clients, and then be able to explain their interpretations. As we move into the future, the job market for accountants in Malaysia will stay strong, despite different skills needed to adapt. So accounting professionals and those aspiring to start a career in accounting, should always make sure their skills are relevant and up-to-date.

  • What will be the new job roles emerging from this change? What does the job role of an “Accounting technician” entail?

New roles emerging from this change will be, the accountant will now act as more of a data analyst, rather than simply checking figures or entering data into a system. Accountants will need to analyse data, collated by automated tools, and understand what it intends to convey about a client’s business.

Accounting technicians are qualified accounting professionals, covering the breadth of what you would expect to see within a finance function, including managing finances, budgets and cash flow. What they do is very broad. Our belief at AAT is that, the accountancy pyramid is upside down. We believe where we are today is that, we have chartered accountants in most countries around the world, performing invaluable functions.

However, too much of what chartered accountants do shouldn’t be part of their job; they even complete the role of far too junior staff on a day-to-day basis. Hence, the pyramid being upside down, accounting technicians should support the work undertaken by chartered accountants. Research conducted by us, some five years ago suggested that, the optimum model has around nine or ten accounting technicians supporting every chartered accountant.

  • How can veterans, and the generation of baby boomers set pace with the current times? Will their skills, expertise and experiences honed, seem outdated in this accelerated pace of digital boom?

It is always important to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date, and by doing so, the veterans and the baby boomer generation can keep pace with the accelerated pace of digital boom. Learning new skills is important whatever age you are, and at AAT we see people who come to study with us and learn new skills in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s.

So, there is no need for either veterans or the baby boomer generation to seem outdated, particularly because they can bring a lot of useful experience that other individuals may not have.

  • How will upskilling and retraining programs help accountants working for SMEs and start-ups of today?

Start-ups often cannot afford the luxury of a chartered accountant. Very often the skill sets of those involved in the business will grow alongside the business. An AAT qualification delivers the right set of skills at the right time. The overall end result is a cost-effective solution and financially aware business owner.

  • What will be the future of accounting and finance careers in Malaysia – envisioning job scope in 2020?

The future of accounting and finance careers in Malaysia is bright. The government has specified the need for 60,000 more accountants in the country by 2020, which means that there should be job opportunities for those with the right training and skills. Skilled finance professionals will always be needed to help businesses succeed and contribute to the growth of the economy.

  • What are the growth and expansion plans of AAT in the Asia Pacific region?

Working with our partners in Malaysia, we are also present in Singapore, the Maldives, Myanmar, and Pakistan. We plan to continue strengthening our relationships in these countries, while building interests across the region.

Also read: Singapore Finance and Accounting Industry Outlook for 2017

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