With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), there is growing public concern over the potential implications of this new technology for business operations and society as a whole.
The accounting profession is considered one of the industries most vulnerable to the AI revolution.
To address this concern, I have recently organized a seminar and invited representatives from the political, business and academic sectors to share their views on this issue.
As to whether AI is going to take away jobs from accountants, some guest speakers said it is without doubt that auditing and tax-filing are currently the most “endangered” work procedures in the industry, as many accounting firms have already started applying AI technologies to these job duties.
To me, I am more interested in examining the issue from another angle: how to enable accountants to perform their job more efficiently with the help of AI.
Many of the speakers said “retooling” is going to be an issue that professionals in every industry will have to face in the coming days.
As far as accountants are concerned, in order to stay ahead of the game, they will not only need to keep abreast of the latest developments in accounting rules and regulations, but may also have to master the techniques for data analysis, machine learning and program writing in the future.
In the seminar, the guest speakers were hardly exaggerating in their remarks.
The CFA Institute Hong Kong has recently announced that it is going to add new subjects such as AI, virtual currencies, block chain, big data and machine learning to the current examination syllabus for chartered financial analysts.
Given that, perhaps it is also time for the accounting industry to review its existing study programs, examination syllabus and assessment criteria for qualified accountants to make sure they can meet the challenges posed by the ongoing technological transformation.
Like I said in several of my previous articles, our government should look into the overall implications of the AI technology for the entire society with a broader vision.
Participants of the seminar and I were most concerned about the issue of talent nurturing. And when it comes to this crucial issue, I believe the government should pursue two goals：
Firstly, it must step up efforts at enhancing worker retraining. And secondly, it should formulate a long-term strategy in human resource planning.
At present, the government is retraining local workers or helping them to update their skills and enhance their competitiveness mainly through the Continuing Education Fund (CEF), under which eligible applicants can get reimbursed for the costs incurred on the courses of study or training programs they have taken.
However, even though the administration has injected an extra HK$10 billion into the CEF in this year’s budget, so that the maximum amount of subsidies for each eligible applicant will double to HK$20,000, I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement as far as the fund itself is concerned.
For example, I strongly suggest that the government continue to review the amount of subsidies available to each applicant under the CEF.
The administration should also consider incorporating the increasingly popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) into the official list of CEF reimbursable courses, so as to give more choices to people planning to pursue further studies.
Last but not least, the government should also substantially adjust the curricula of our kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, as well as tertiary education institutions promptly in order to help our students adapt to the new model of thinking in the AI era.
Apart from focusing on the quantities of degrees they provide, universities in Hong Kong should also revamp their curricula in accordance with the needs of social development and enhance both the quality and depth of their courses so as to meet the changing demands in the job market.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 24
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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