TITLE: Keynote Address by Dr Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Chief Executive Officer, Malaysian Institute of Accountants – The Kaplan Forum : Educating Future Accountants

DATE: 06/03/2019






THE KAPLAN FORUM: Educating Future Accountants



  • Mr Calum Shephard, International Client Relations Manager, Kaplan Financial
  • Distinguished Panellists
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
  1. Thank you very much to KAPLAN for inviting me to say a few words on the topic of Educating Future Accountants. As an academic previously at the University of Malaya and now as CEO of MIA - the developer and regulator of the accountancy profession, Educating Future Accountants is a topic that I am very passionate about.
  2. I am happy to see that many representatives from employers in public practice and the corporate sector are here today, so that MIA can get direct feedback from you on how to further improve accountancy education. These insights are very useful when MIA engages with the relevant Ministries and institutes of higher education on transforming accountancy education, in order to produce the accountancy talent that meets the needs of employers and to meet our target of producing 60,000 accountants by 2030 to support nation building.
  3. Ladies and gentlemen, when I speak about the future of accountancy education, my focus is definitely on strategies to embrace information and communications technology (ICT) as well as enhancing the ethical values of accountancy professionals. The global direction clearly shows that changes in technology across the financial reporting supply chain are impacting the skills, and behaviours needed by aspiring and professional accountants to perform their roles.
  4. Professional accountants at all levels from transactional roles performed by accounting technicians to strategic decision making by CEOs/ CFOs need to harness digital evolution in order to remain relevant and efficient. Ultimately the accounting profession would bring the value of trust by providing high quality financial reporting, auditing, or other related financial and accounting services in the digital age.
  5. Sooner or later, the educators need to incorporate these skills to the aspiring accountants as the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB) has released an Exposure Draft which embeds the learning outcomes of the ICT and professional scepticism across all levels of the proposed changes to the International Education Standards (IES).
  6. It is therefore imperative that the accountancy education of the future incorporates and integrates ICT skills to remain relevant in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) whilst enhancing the ethical values and professional scepticism which form the core principles of the accounting profession.
  7. Ladies and gentlemen, IR4.0 is characterised by the increasing use of cyberphysical systems, where man and machine will work together in synergy. I am sure that all of you are already well acquainted with terminologies such as data analytics, cloud computing and Internet of Things, which are all ingrained in IR4.0 and digital economy. Closer to us, IR 4.0 features such as AI and RPA are already impacting on the accounting profession, especially in audit and assurance and the finance function.
  8. Let me share one example of how accountancy education must change to bring future accountants up to speed. Audit sampling methods taught in books tells us that auditors perform tests based on a set of samples to be projected across the population. This is no longer the case because technology can assist us to vouch for 100% of the population. We do not just get 0.0000 accuracy, but because the machines can do 100% sampling more efficiently and effectively than human accountants, this will reduce the workload and stresses for audit firms. And that will also help resolve the talent crunch, which is one of the main challenges facing employers today – especially audit firms, which is how do we recruit and retain audit talent by providing better work-life balance?
  9. So, ladies and gentlemen, how do we teach technology effectively within the constructs of the accountancy education framework? How do we get accountancy education to play catch-up with the real business world?
  10. Most critical is that future education must embed technology at all levels of core knowledge and across all levels of the profession. MIA today is strongly advocating for the profession to embrace technology across their business and service models. We are continuously providing awareness to 35,500 members across our core segments of public practice, commerce and industry, public sector and academia, that we must adopt technology to become more efficient and relevant, and future-proof. The launch of MIA’s Digital Technology Blueprint is one of the key drivers towards leading the Malaysian accountancy profession to keep abreast with IR4.0
  11. As a member body of IFAC – the International Federation of Accountants, we conscientiously align MIA’s education strategies with the global direction to ensure the marketability and global demand of current and aspiring Malaysian accountants. Malaysia is a net exporter of accounting services and we want to maintain our advantage here to support nation building.
  12. In addition to strengthening professional scepticism and judgement skills, MIA’s research and our engagement with employers have also shown that we must reform the accountancy education system within Malaysia and ASEAN to equip future accountants with the following critical skills - technological skills as mentioned earlier, communications and soft skills, critical thinking, strategic and analytical skills, and resilience as well as flexibility.
  13. With regards to tech skills, accountants do not need to be data scientists, but they should be able to work with IoT, AI, RPA, big data analytics, cloud, cybersecurity and blockchain to do their jobs better. So, these concepts and knowledge need to be injected into the accountancy syllabus.
  14. Communication skills. This has been stressed for the longest time, but we still need to do better. Accountants need a good command of English to be convincing and influential business partners and decision-makers in all the markets in which we operate. You also need good English to interpret the principles-based accounting standards correctly and communicate these effectively to your users and stakeholders. This is especially true for auditors who need to assist and advise preparers. Malaysian Financial Reporting Standards (MFRS) are not getting any easier!
  15. The system needs to teach critical thinking, strategic and analytical skills to cope with a deluge of data. Data has been called the new oil, so accountants must know how to mine data for insights to add value. To reiterate, accountants today do not just prepare double entries and historical financial reports. You have to be forward-looking and forward thinking, prescient and able to exercise judgement and sound decision-making in order to make sense of data, and to advise and lead organisations.
  16. Agility and resilience. Is this inborn? Can it be taught? The jury is still out.
  17. Ladies and gentlemen, finally I wish to stress that even as we work to reform the frameworks and content of accountancy education, we must always strive to integrate ethics and integrity into our teaching. Ethics and integrity are still the fundamental principles underpinning the profession, and these will become even more imperative as data and cybersecurity governance issues take centrestage in the digital economy. Today, as accountants we deal with data privacy, authentication and security issues, for instance when auditors seek to access highly regulated and protected client data that is held with banks. That is just the tip of the iceberg – and there are many other governance and ethical issues impacting education that I will be happy to address at another time.

Thank you!