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Machine learning will become a reality in the near future

Date

10 Apr 2019

Sections

InfoSociety
  • Research reveals machine learning is becoming more relevant for many organisations as the hype increasingly becomes reality
  • Huge opportunities for better business intelligence and across a range of activities carried out by accountants
  • Adoption of machine learning needs to be based on legitimate business need rather than just wanting to be seen as using AI
  • Ethical challenges lie ahead - accountants need to align professional competence and due care with AI and machine learning
 
A third of accountants currently see AI as all or mostly hype, while nearly 60 per cent say that in three years’ time it will become a reality, according to global research amongst nearly 2,000 ACCA members in 111 countries. 
 
The findings are published in a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Machine learning: more science than fiction which highlights how new tech developments have a massive potential for the accountancy profession. The report, very timely issued just two days after the publication of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence’s Guidelines for Trustworthy AI,  focuses on machine learning, which is the ability of computers to ‘learn’ and make decisions or predictions based on analysis of large sets of data.
 
Narayanan Vaidyanathan, the report’s author and head of business insights at ACCA says: ‘Machine learning is a critical area of development for accountants. Looking ahead it will be crucial to understand its value and benefits, as well as the ethical challenges it presents. In all this, the starting point has to be a legitimate business need with a clear understanding of what it can bring to the organisation.
 
‘AI and machine learning can add value to the work accountants do – from generating valuable insights for business decision-making, to fraud detection, risk assessment, understanding complexities in taxation and also with more effective non-financial reporting.  So the accountancy profession needs to understand how AI and machine learning works, especially given its role in influencing the trust we have in the decisions of these systems. 
 
‘As with any technology, with power comes responsibility. In the case of machine learning ethical considerations are never far away. Accountants need to consider and manage potential ethical compromise from decision-making by algorithm, such as the risk of bias in the data set that feeds them and the issue of accountability for decisions made.’
 
The report emphasises that at a minimum all finance professionals should know how AI is evolving and be alert to how the developing capabilities could overlap with their impact on their roles. To prepare for the digital future, ACCA already examines a range of digital topics within its Masters level ACCA Qualification. It has also enhanced the digital content across many of the exams for students, while also ensuring digital is weaved into members’ continuous professional development.
 
Narayanan Vaidyanathan concludes: ‘Machine learning’s entrance into the accountancy mainstream is a huge opportunity, where professional accountants have the chance to develop a core understanding of emerging technologies, while continually building their interpretive, contextual and relationship-led skills. They can then truly benefit from the ability of technologies like machine learning to support them with intelligent analysis of vast amounts of data.’ 
- ends - 
 
Notes to Editors
 
About the research
Research for the report was conducted 18 January to 4 February 2019
 
About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centres and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.
ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally. 
 
Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com
 
 

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