A trip of contrasts to Southeast Asia

Will I have a job in 10 years? I’ve been answering that question a lot over the last few years, but it had particular resonance recently when I was in Southeast Asia. I found out that accounting undergrad student numbers across the region are actually declining in response to fears that accounting jobs will be automated and disappear. So I felt that I was really arguing for the future of the profession every time the question came up! 

This rather worrying message stood in contrast to the obvious enthusiasm for technology among many accountancy professionals that I met. The roadshows are a great way to raise ICAEW’s profile in these important markets, as well as share the Tech Faculty’s research and thought leadership work. But they also increasingly give us the opportunity to learn from other parts of the world, and share some different perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for the profession around technology.   

I have been doing these roadshow trips, across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, for five years now, and I really noticed this time how the audiences have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable about technology. Audiences were bigger, there were more questions and informed debate, and more direct involvement from local members through panel discussions. The roadshow kicked off in Singapore with the launch of our latest report on digital transformation in finance functions, and some particular highlights after that included: 

  • A roundtable discussion on fintech and the impact on the profession at Bank Nagara, the Malaysian national bank 
  • A full day of presentations at the Indonesian Institute of CPAs (IAPA) covering AI, big data, and the future of jobs, as well as a brilliant fun quiz which brought out the competitive spirit of the attendees! 
  • Some great student events in all countries on jobs and the skills that accountants will need 

I think this engagement reflects growing awareness and adoption of technologies in these countries, as well as lots of curiosity about new opportunities. So while we should be concerned about the perception of jobs in some quarters, I also came away from the trip feeling that there were many reasons to be positive about the future and the ability of the profession to innovate and adapt. 

Pictures below are from the launch event in Singapore, the fintech roundtable, and an event with our CFAB students in Hanoi.