My nephew is going to graduate from NTU very soon. He major in Accounting, a major he chose as he sees big money making potential from how his aunt seems to be doing as a seasoned accountant.

He isn’t wrong.

Any accounting major from local government schools are highly sought after even before they graduate. Most would go to one of the big four and the rest might join non audit firms to practise accounting.

Regardless of companies, their paths will be financially rewarding.

Whether they work hard and rise up to become partners, or escalate into CFOs, they can expect a 4x to 5x of their first salary post graduation.

A CFO I know was getting at least $240,000 per annum managing the regional finance of the organisation.

And many accounting trained individual also go on to become the CEO of the company. A huge contrast to the HR trained professional I’m more familiar with.

 

AlphaGo

In 2016, deepmind conceived of using their AI to beat human players in the game of Go. Go is one of the, if not the, most complex board games that exist.

According to British Go Association “Go is simpler than Chess and yet more complex. Simpler because all pieces are the same, just black and white, and in Go the pieces do not move around the board. … At the opening move in Chess there are 20 possible moves. In Go the first player has 361 possible moves.”

After intense training of AlphaGo, it managed to beat the world number one Go player Ke Jie 3-0.

Not content with just winning the world human champion, deepmind created AlphaGo Zero.

Unlike the original AlphaGo, which DeepMind trained over time using large quantities of human knowledge and supervision, AlphaGo Zero’s algorithm taught itself to master the game.

It managed to beat the original 100 – 0.

 

Dominance of AI and Machine Learning

AlphaGo is a specific AI. It can play Go really well but can’t help you to format your spreadsheet. And it can do Go really well because despite the complexity of the game, there is fixed set of rules that lead to a finite number of possibilities and outcome.

Accounting is a fixed set of rules.

In a simplistic manner, You credit and debit monies, track fixed assets and capture revenue and expenses.

AI invasion into Accounting is based epitomised by Germany based Smacc offers small and medium-sized enterprises a platform to digitize and automate accounting and financial processes.

Customers submit their receipts to Smacc, which turns them into a machine-readable format, encrypts them, then allocates them to an account. The platform gradually also self-learns, tracking invoices, sales and costs, as well as their liquidity.

The system checks against some 64 data points, verifies the invoice, checking, for example, that the math adds up, and even if the VAT-ID and its issuer are correct. Once the system has already learned how to deal with the supplier on position levels, it will do it automatically. Over time – says the startup – it becomes better and better at automatically dealing and allocating the data.

In an article by the Journal of Accountancy, Calum Chace, an AI expert who spoke Sunday at AICPA fall Council in San Antonio. Their competitors already are finding ways to use AI.

“Collecting, organizing, and analyzing the data that you have access to is the first step,” Chace said during a pre-Council telephone interview.

Chace, whose books on AI include Surviving AI and The Economic Singularity, said accountants—and everyone, really—also should consider the long-range effects of AI. He predicts that within 20 to 30 years, AI will be developed to the point that many people no longer will have jobs because machines will be able to do the work better than humans.

Chace calls that point in time the “economic singularity.”

Although ICPAS might beg to differ, their voice is a lonely one in the sea of other experts who deemed an AI invasion of Accounting roles (in addition to many others).

Perhaps Accountants in Singapore are somehow protected from the technological invasion, something that is not even sparing the lawyer here.

 

Career advice for today’s adolescent

Which got me thinking. What kind of career advice would I give to my own kids?

Having been in the recruitment industry for more than a decade and career coaching for half of that, I see careers more often than I want to.

And things have changed so much over that period.

I’m the generation that saw the invention of smartphones and their invasion into the workplace.

Our kids won’t even know what a fax machine is.

One thing I’m certain of – the cycle of change will become shorter and reaction time would become a luxury.

That also mean room for mistakes are getting narrow and making the right chess moves from the get go could be detrimental to the how their careers would travel.

I do agree that creativity and innovation would make a key difference but it does not stop there. If creativity and innovation is invested into sculpting, I don’t believe things would go anywhere.

If I can, I would heavily influence my kids to be competent in computer science because that is the way to go. But blend it with a dose of creativity (cultivated through appreciation and execution of arts) so they go beyond competing against the thousands of wordpress developers from India.

 

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