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CAREERS: Here's How Big Data, Cloud Computing Are Transforming Accountancy

Recruits will need a firm grasp of the digital disruption reshaping professional services

Thu Jun 30 2016

In accountancy, the robots are coming. PwC believes there’s a 97.5% chance of accounting being replaced by automation over the next two decades. Anyone hoping to work in accounting will need a firm grasp of the digital disruption rolling through the industry.

The Big Four professional services firms — KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte — employ vast swaths of business school graduates annually. And the biggest growth in talent demand is for budding auditors who can trawl through ever larger mountains of big data using advanced analytical tools.

“Big data is starting to take hold on the industry, with the Big Four leading the way,” says Alex Stremme, assistant dean for the finance masters program at Warwick Business School.

Data analytics allows auditors to test and analyze entire data sets, such as expenses claims or company logs.

Richard Anning, head of IT faculty for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, says: “Data analytics provides opportunities to develop new insights about the business and challenge management’s view through a different lens.”

The shift is being prompted partly by challenges from tech-savvy companies such as Amazon and Google. Technology has moved services online and lowered barriers to entry, paving the way for a new crop of players to disrupt the audit, accounting and advisory divisions of the leading professional services firms.

Nick Frost, partner and head of audit technology for KPMG UK, says: “To deal with this real threat we must become the best at accountancy-based or financial process data analytics.”

In response, firms are launching new technology initiatives designed to innovate some of the oldest known professional services.

Despite concerns over data security, auditors are increasingly embracing cloud computing, which can automate low-level administrative tasks and free up time, as more audit clients seek to administer payrolls and file tax returns online. Deloitte, for example, just launched a cloud-based accountancy service called Propel, which targets SMEs. And last year, KPMG spent £40 million on cloud software that lets companies prepare their accounts digitally.

Such technologies are poised to change the way that accountants and financiers work. Faye Chue, head of business insights at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, says: “Their role will no longer be primarily reactive and backward-looking but proactive, continuous, forward-looking and engaged.”

This will also spur a shift in the training and education of accountancy professionals. At NYU’s Stern School of Business, the accounting department is developing new courses in statistical and data analysis, says Alex Dontoh, professor of accounting and deputy chair of the department.

The demand for tech-savvy talent is part of a broader change in the professional services recruitment market. Firms are now looking for core management and leadership skills, which is good news for MBAs.

“Accountants now manage some of the problems in a broader sense. They are not pure accountants checking figures without thinking beyond them,” says Dr Edgar Loew, professor of management practice in accounting at Frankfurt’s School of Finance & Management.

Student Reviews

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management




Modern and global

Frankfurt School provided me with one of the best experiences of my life. I was an Erasmus student for a semester and could learn a lot. I took some mainstream courses like marketing and supply chain management, but also some innovative courses like applied persuasion and event planning. The professors are not only germans but from different parts of the world, mostly with international experience. The student life is great, the FS Bulls are a great community that is definitely worth being a part of. The best part is the campus, newly built with ultra modern architecture located in on the of the best neighbourhoods in Frankfurt am Main. You can find accomodation right next to it, many student residences at a fair price.




Career Oriented

I am a first year at the Frankfurt School and have been a prt of it for only a month; however, I can say for sure that the university provides its students with all the opportunities to grow professionally and personally. The majority of the professors are or have been successful professionals who easily relate the course material with real life and make lectures enjoyable. The extra curricular activities provided by the university are also a great step to life after graduation and give a head start for the students career.




University giving its students education of high quality and career prospects.

This university has helped me gain knowledge and experiences, that I lacked in my home country. Being in a great international surrounding, I have the opportunity to prosper and learn every day. The study program is very engaging, and the lecturers help you grow.





I’m a bachelor student at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and my overall experience was better than I expected. The classes have a small number of students, which makes the relationship with the professor better because they become easier to approach. During my years of study, I had both practical and theoretical classes, like innovation management, big data & analytics, econometrics. But the theories and concepts are directly applied to real-life problems due to many professors working in banks or consultancies, which is really good. FS supports students in finding internships and semesters abroad, but when it comes to housing not so much because it’s not that easy in Frankfurt. FS offers dorms, but it is only to a limited amount of students and the facilities aren’t the best. In terms of student organizations, there are a lot of different sport clubs for almost every kind of sport, also student consulting, student investment club, student politics club, music, arts, etc. Living in Frankfurt is good, it is very multicultural in Germany, with lots of cultural actives, museums, parks, etc. The nightlife is also nice with proper nightclubs compared to the size of the city, Gibson, Velvet, Adlib to name a few, and there also is a bar district in Alt-Sachsenhausend and a lot of bars where bankers go in the city center. The campus is not really comparable to an actual campus like the American universities, but it’s a big modern building that was built 2 years ago. I would definitely recommend it to a friend if you're willing to pay that much for uni, because there are still a lot of public unis in Germany that are comparably good (Mannheim, Goethe, LMU Munich...).