The role of technology in Singapore’s vision to be a global accountancy hub
As reported earlier, accountancy is one of five key sub-sectors of the Professional Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) launched in January this year to develop Singapore into a globally-leading Professional Services Industry driven by innovation and partnerships. Sharing the collective goal with the other four key subs-sectors are advertising, architecture and engineering, consulting, and legal, the ITM targets an annual growth rate of 4.6% to reach $31 billion in value-add by 2020, and to create 5,500 new PMET jobs per year.
Singapore recently launched a S$2.4-million Digital Transformation for Accountancy Programme to help firms adopt technology, and the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Financial Forensic Professionals.
The announcement was made by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, and Second Minister for Law, Finance and Education, who shared the accountancy roadmap and new initiatives to develop the sector to be future-ready, at the Practitioners Conference 2018, organised by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA). Developed by the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) together with other government agencies including the Economic Development Board (EDB), Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), the Roadmap charts the direction for the sector over the next 5 to 10 years to develop Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub. It targets an annual growth of 5.6% to reach S$2.03 billion in nominal value-add and to create 2000 new PMET jobs by 2020.
According the Mr Evan Law, Chief Executive of the SAC, the Roadmap will position Singapore well to lead in providing high value specialist services and will require close collaboration among all industry players to realise our shared vision of developing Singapore into a leading global hub.
The accountancy roadmap comprises four pillars: Productivity; Re-skilling and Upskilling; Innovation; and Internationalisation.
According the Singapore’s national accountancy census conducted by SAC, AEcensus 2016/17, Accounting Entities (AEs) which adopted technology indicated significant improvements with time savings of around 28%, cost savings of 14% and 8% increase in revenue.
The accountancy sector can streamline work processes by leveraging technology. However, perceived high cost and lack of knowledge to choose appropriate software were cited as reasons for not adopting technology.
Through the roadmap, initiatives will be put in place to help firms adopt technology to spur growth and productivity:
The Digital Transformation for Accountancy (DTACT) Programme
A total of S$2.4 million has been allocated to the DTACT Programme to help Small and Medium Practices (SMPs) adopt baseline technologies. SMPs will be able to get funding support of up to 70% for the first year of adoption of solutions, with total grant amount capped at S$30,000, in each of the following software: Practice Management System, Tax, and Internal Audit.
The programme is funded by Enterprise Singapore and will be administered by SAC, with assistance from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to pre-approve and curate digital solutions. It will open for applications in the third quarter of 2018.
“Enterprise Singapore partnered Singapore Accountancy Commission on the DTACT Programme to help more accounting entities improve their productivity with technology. It is about using technology to help the accounting fraternity be more rigorous and freeing them to do higher value-add work. This programme hopefully will enable these companies to sharpen their competitive edge as they look to capture more opportunities both locally and globally,” said Mr Satvinder Singh, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Singapore.
IMDA e-invoicing Framework
To ensure seamless transactions between businesses, SAC is working with IMDA on the nationwide e-invoicing framework which will utilise the international Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard. E-invoicing is expected to bring about significant efficiency gains and cost savings to businesses in Singapore. Accounting professionals can expect improved productivity from the automation of invoice generation and processing. It could also potentially offer improved cross-border e-invoicing with overseas businesses which are also on the same e-invoice standard.
As reported earlier, IMDA is the first national PEPPOL authority outside of Europe and the first National Authority in Asia to adopt the e-invoicing standard which enables the exchange of standardised machine-readable documents over its network.
(2) Skills development
The roadmap plans to attract and train PMETs to move into new accountancy jobs in high growth areas, upskill workers in jobs affected by the digital disruption, and strengthen AEs’ Human Resource capabilities.
On top of the current programmes to develop future-ready professionals, a new Professional Conversion Programme for Financial Forensic Professionals (PCP-FFP) has been launched. As part of the Adapt and Grow initiative, this new PCP targets and helps mid-career PMETs to re-skill and embark on a new career in Financial Forensic. Individuals with background in law enforcement, information system, accounting and finance will be preferred.
PCP-FFP is a place-and-train programme that comprises on-the-job training and completion of the ISCA Financial Forensic Accounting (FFA) Qualification. Trainees will be able to complete the programme in 10 months or longer, with salary support available for up to 6 months. The ISCA Financial Forensic Accounting (FFA) Qualification is the first applied learning financial forensic qualification developed by a professional body in the region.
The roadmap also supports firms to diversify into high value accounting services through business model and technology innovation. This will be achieved by having more Centres of Excellence to drive new capabilities in emerging high value services and new innovation labs to promote technology collaborations within the industry. International accounting technology players will also be courted to set up their regional R&D centres in Singapore.
To drive business and technology innovation within the accountancy sector, Singapore launched its first accounting Hackathon on 2 June. Called the Accounting Innovation Challenge, participants will work with mentors from the accountancy firms to co-create new business ideas and innovative solutions to solve problems from the industry.
To position Singapore well to be a market leader in high-value specialist services, initiatives will be launched to capture international demand in high growth areas; and promote Singapore as a leading exchange for accountancy, and thought-leadership. Enterprise Singapore, together with other Government agencies, will strengthen efforts to assist AEs to leverage on trade missions, and business and networking platforms to build inroads into overseas markets.
In conclusion,these four pillars will help accounting entities and individuals capture opportunities in the high-growth practice areas as cited by the Committee for the Future Economy’s Working Group for Legal and Accounting Services, which are Business Valuation, Debt Restructuring and Insolvency, Finance, Internal Audit, and Risk Management & Corporate Governance.