Audit sector 'can benefit from opportunities tech brings'

At the opening ceremony of Deloitte University Asia Pacific in Sentosa yesterday were (from left) Deloitte University Asia Pacific dean Ko Asami, Mr Tharman, Mr Renjen and Deloitte Asia Pacific regional managing director and Deloitte Japan chief exec
At the opening ceremony of Deloitte University Asia Pacific in Sentosa yesterday were (from left) Deloitte University Asia Pacific dean Ko Asami, Mr Tharman, Mr Renjen and Deloitte Asia Pacific regional managing director and Deloitte Japan chief executive Yoichiro Ogawa. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DELOITTE

While technology is disrupting the audit sector, it also presents opportunities, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

Mr Tharman told a Deloitte event that he has noted how technology has brought disruption to many sectors, including professional services.

"Even in the accountancy profession, there is a significant amount of routine and repetitive tasks, which are hence automatable," he said.

However, "the audit sector is one which can leverage new technologies to develop new capabilities in advanced audit analytics".

His remarks came in an address at the opening of Deloitte University Asia Pacific in Amara Sanctuary Resort in Sentosa, a centre set up by the Big Four accounting firm to groom employees into leaders.

Mr Tharman added there is a huge potential to enrich work, liberate employees to focus on more interesting tasks, and deliver greater value.

"As more businesses become digitised or go online, the surge of organisational and transactional data cannot be tackled by conventional auditing approaches.

"Advanced audit analytics, which relies on data analytics and smart algorithms, will allow for mining of massive data sets, to deliver smaller sets of high-value data for auditors to evaluate."

Through such new technologies, Mr Tharman noted, an auditor can improve both audit quality as well as business insights, turning his role into one that becomes more strategic and insight-driven, rather than one "of checking and cross-footing".

He added that the opening of the centre here "is also well-aligned with how we are growing our human capital in Singapore, as the fundamental pillar of our social and economic development", through SkillsFuture, for instance.

Deloitte University Asia Pacific aims to enrol 1,000 participants next year and joins other corporate universities here, such as one set up by consumer goods giant Unilever.

The campus serves the Asia Pacific region, which Deloitte global chief executive Punit Renjen said "is a critical engine to the world's future economic growth".

This is also why it is investing in "the professional, leadership, industry and technical skills" of its employees across all levels, he added.

Rachael Boon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Audit sector 'can benefit from opportunities tech brings''. Print Edition | Subscribe