Blockchain and its implications for accountancy

On Monday, we hosted an Accountancy Salon on blockchain: an open discussion on the impact of this technology on the profession and opportunities for our members. The event was part of our AuditFutures programme and was run in collaboration with ICAEW’s IT Faculty.

The purpose of the Salon was to provide an overview of blockchain technology, its original vision and current developments. The speakers helped explain some of the concepts and tensions around blockchain and explored the deeper implications for the accountancy profession.

Blockchain will disrupt the distribution of value

The internet disrupted the distribution of information and blockchain could prove to be as disruptive in the distribution of value. Some of the examples given at the event were the benefits around cheaper, faster and more secure transaction and operational chains in industries like education, pharmaceuticals, banking and international development. Such innovations would pose challenges to many intermediaries, including accountancy and finance professionals.

We need to further our understanding of blockchain and its long-term impacts

FinTech and blockchain are on the radar for many. In his speech intended for the Mansion House Dinner last week, Mark Carney focused on the potential of FinTech to deliver a more resilient and inclusive financial infrastructure and noted that ’the ledger, once stone, wood, or paper – and always centralised – is now digital and may become distributed’. 

According to panellist Patrick Spens, forward-thinking companies are already considering blockchain in their 3-5 year tech spend plans and many of our member firms are recruiting talent. As a profession, we need to continue to have a sound critical perspective and should not necessarily always turn to technology to solve short-term problems. Our legacy and aspiration for the future should remind us to consider technology and its long-term impacts.

Trust is fundamental for our profession and there is a need for more understanding and confidence building around technologies like blockchain. The evolving challenge around software flaws in one of the blockchain systems, Ethereum, which suffered an attack last Friday, shows the need for broader and deeper discussion around many issues.