TITLE: Keynote Address by Dr Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Chief Executive Officer, Malaysian Institute of Accountants at The Accounting Students Conference (ASC) 2019 – A Spectrum of Millennials Accountants

DATE: 07/12/2019







(hosted by Multimedia University)

7 December 2019 (Saturday), Putrajaya

  • Prof. Ir. Dr. Hairul Azhar Abdul Rashid, Vice President, Research and Innovation, MMU
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nahariah Jaffar, Dean, Faculty of Management, MMU
  • Encik Bakthiar Hasnan, Career Advisor, MMU Career Connect
  • Mr. Eizec Harith Kaleon Leong, ASC 2019 Programme Director
  • Educators and Students
  • Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
  1. Good morning and thank you all for being with us at the annual Accounting Students Conference (ASC) 2019, a platform that links accounting students from various universities in Malaysia.
  2. This annual Conference was initiated by the MIA in order to help develop the country’s accountancy talent pipeline and upskill young accountancy talents to prepare you for the workplace and meet employer and industry expectations.
  3. Since its inception in 2006, the ASC has been carried out through the collaboration between MIA and Universities under Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Accountants Act, 1967.
  4. This year, MIA is proud to be working together with the Cyberjaya Accounting Club of the Multimedia University to bring you ASC 2019.
  5. Over the years, the ASC has grown from strength to strength. In ASC 2018, 188 students from 23 institutions throughout Malaysia participated in the conference, a slight increase from 172 participants in 2017.
  6. The thrust of ASC is to help students develop professional skills that will be useful in the workplace, such as teamwork, leadership, communications, negotiation, management, organisational, logistical and entrepreneurship skills. This year’s theme is “A Spectrum of Millennial Accountants”, which refers to optimising the visible and unrealised potentials of an accounting student across the whole spectrum. As such, we have organised specific talks and activities that delve deeper beyond accounting to develop you as a well-rounded and sustainable talent. This will also help future-proof you and ensure that you are relevant in the workplace of the future as Industry Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) becomes more mainstream.
  7. Dear students and educators, the technology disruptions and IR 4.0 has started to make the accountancy profession more interesting. In this new era, the high-powered computers and advanced business systems can efficiently handle the routine and repetitive tasks, and this elevates the accountancy professionals to handle higher value-added responsibilities. As a result, organisations will gain better business insights and decision- making, that adds tremendous value to the economy and the society. Yes, I am talking about accountants with augmented intelligence!
  8. Let me just share some of the facts on accountancy and our future.
  9. One, MIA’s research and engagement with employers and industries and global bodies show that the application of technology in the accounting profession will not result in the loss of jobs for accountants. On the contrary, the profession will benefit from the creation of higher value-added jobs. Technology will enable accountants to focus on high-value work by replacing the more repetitive and low-value add work, according to The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) which is the global organisation for the accountancy profession. So, you will have more fun at work doing challenging things.
  10. Two, there is still big demand for accountants. Global executive search firm Hays in 2019 research noted some key trends that are positive for accountants in Malaysia.
  11. These trends include one: “Surge in Accountancy & Finance positions – as MNCs set up shared services centres and tech start-ups invest, it is predicted that accountancy and finance teams are required for financial analysis and planning, budgeting and forecasting.”
  12. Another trend is “Positive Outlook for Tax-related Roles – driven by tax reforms, digital service taxes, focus on professionals with transfer pricing knowledge in addition to the new SST mechanics.”
  13. Accountants are also needed for “compliance, risk and governance roles – especially in audit risk compliance - because of regulatory changes.”
  14. Evolving role of a CFO – Hays says that the demand for strategic CFOs will increase as “organisations embrace finance transformation and to realign with the recent technology disruption. Also, the role of a CFO could potentially overlap with the role of a CEO or COO as more and more CFOs stretch their responsibilities beyond finance – such as looking at improving the business efficiencies and growth. Companies are also leaning towards having CFOs who contribute to the strategic financial direction of a business on top of overseeing functions such as sales, marketing and procurement. And there is a growing preference for CFOs with soft skills such as effective communication as the role of a CFO becomes increasingly front-facing to stakeholders.”
  15. So please don’t worry. There is also third-party data that shows that highly-skilled and high-value accountancy jobs are not at risk of obsolescence. The Critical Occupations List (COL) 2018/2019 as updated and published in 12 March 2019 by the Critical Skills Monitoring Committee states that Accountant is a critical occupation that is skilled, sought after, and of strategic value in Malaysia. Talent Corporation Malaysia has also clarified that in relation to the Returning Experts Programme (REP), Accountant is listed within the Top 6 professions in COL applications. This shows that highly skilled accountants are in demand among employers.
  16. MIA is also working hard to build the talent pipeline for accountants because there is great demand for you in the economy. Presently, there are more than 36,000 Chartered Accountants who are MIA members, contributing to businesses and organisations across all sectors in Malaysia, regionally and globally. Malaysia’s chartered accountants are in great demand in markets like Vietnam, Singapore, China and Dubai for their expertise. Would business want us if we were really truly obsolete?
  17. MIA also aspires to achieve a total of 60,000 accountancy professionals by 2030 – which is a target set by the Government to support national talent development and competency building. Currently, there are more than 90,000 students taking accountancy at various levels in the education system including yourselves.
  18. MIA is striving to ensure that the accountancy education in Malaysia meets global standards so that you are marketable and relevant all over the world, not just in our market. Presently, we are developing the MIA Competency Framework which defines the skill sets required to become accountancy professionals based on three (3) proficiency levels of the IFAC International Education Standards (IES) which include the Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced proficiency requirements. Accountancy professionals at different levels of proficiency are required as they serve the different needs and segments of the industry.
  19. And to make sure that accountants are able to use technology and relevant in IR4.0, MIA released the MIA Digital Technology Blueprint in July 2018. This Blueprint will guide accountants – including you - in acquiring the skills and expertise that are appropriate for the evolving technological environment, and hence relevant.
  20. Dear students and educators. This is what MIA is doing for the profession and for future accountants – to future-proof you and ensure that you are relevant. But you also have to take responsibility for making sure that you are equipped with the right skills that the market expects, whether it’s technology or technical or people and soft skills.
  21. Perhaps most important is that you must keep on learning. Nurture a mindset of continuous learning. What you learn at university is simply the foundation. Once you enter the working world, you need to keep learning in order to manage other opportunities and challenges.
  22. Other than learning skills, you must also acquire and polish problem-solving skills and survival skills in order to harness these opportunities and find solutions to overcome the challenges.
  23. In addition, there is a great need for the right attitude. You need qualities like agility, empathy, critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, and flexibility. This will help better prepare you for the dynamic and changing marketplace where mobility and disruption across roles, jobs and sectors is the new normal.
  24. Other necessary skills include digital literacy and technological skillsets (for example, using cloud-based software, Microsoft Office applications, and further up the value chain would be data analytics and blockchain).
  25. Also critical are communications and English language proficiency. Communications is the core of your work – you have to document, report, present and influence others.
  26. Other key skills are strategic and analytical skill to make sense of the tremendous volumes of information, judgement and problem-solving. This is aligned with the reforms by the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), which noted that future accountants will need not only Business Acumen but also new skills like Data Interrogation, Synthesis and Analysis, and Digital Acumen.
  27. This year’s ASC also includes sessions on financial planning to ensure your future financial literacy and stability.
  28. Why is financial literacy and planning important? One, we want to ensure that you are equipped with the right financial skills to manage your personal money and financial wellbeing. Two, as accountants, you are the logical choice to offer financial advice to others. There is great potential in offering financial advisory services as Malaysians currently lack knowledge in this area. This is also aligned with the government’s direction as the government has initiated the National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2019-2023, a framework aimed to improve financial literacy across all segments of the society.
  29. Finally, I encourage all of you to take advantage of the many networking opportunities available today. Do build connections with your fellow accounting students from different universities in Malaysia. These are the building blocks of developing a collaborative mindset that is the key to success in the modern business world. And do take the first steps to connect with the employers present at ASC 2019.
  30. In ending, I would like to acknowledge the many parties and supporters who worked on the ASC. On behalf of MIA, I would like to thank the Cyberjaya Accounting Club of MMU for hosting the ASC 2019. We would also like to thank our expert speakers who have taken the time to support this conference. To our Strategic Partner - ICAEW, Platinum Sponsor – Grant Thornton, In-kind Sponsors – Clinelle and Nurish Organiq and T-Shirt Sponsor - ACCA - thank you for your support.
  31. I would also like to thank the organising committee teams of CAC MMU and the advisory team from MIA for their strategic collaboration and joint organisation efforts. Working together, you have crafted the ASC into a platform for creating awareness of the profession and developing future talent.
  32. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the students here today. Without your participation, there would be no ASC, so thank you. Do make the most of the ASC to develop the spectrum of skills expected of a millennial accountant and to learn more about this exciting, rewarding and highly relevant profession as well as your potential roles. I wish you all the best on your journey.

Before I end, I would like to leave you with an abstract from a report by ICAEW

‘To build a positive vision of the future, we need to develop a deep understanding of how artificial intelligence can solve accounting and business problems, the practical challenges and the skills accountants need to work alongside intelligent systems.

Artificial intelligence systems can be very powerful and are improving quickly. They provide outputs that can be extremely accurate, replacing and, in some cases, far superseding human efforts. However, they do not replicate human intelligence. We need to recognise the strengths and limits of this different form of intelligence and build understanding of the best ways for humans and computers to work together’.

Thank you!