Webinar: Meeting Business Needs – The Role of Technology for the Future of Professional Services

By Kealan Finnegan

On 7 October, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) hosted a webinar discussing how technology is changing the roles and focus of professional services.

UKIBC Director Chris Heyes chaired the discussion led by industry specialists Kirstin Gillon, ICAEW Tech Faculty Research Lead, and Peter Wright, Solicitor and Managing Director, Digital Law and Chair of the Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee, The Law Society.

Kirstin began the session by addressing key technology trends for accountants. The trends, which she referred to as ‘ABCD’, are artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cyber security, and data. She noted that blockchain is a potentially radical technology for the profession, but it does not currently provide much practical use. Automation tools, including robotic process automation, have also been widely adopted.

At the moment, cyber, data and automation are the three areas where people are showing the most interest. The Cloud also continues to be a hot topic and is an important underpinning of everything else.

Kirstin went on to share a few of the findings from the ICAEW-ICAI report on Automation in Finance Functions, which is a summary of lessons from members based in India and the UK about digital transformation and what underpins successful change. The key highlights around the impact of automation showed that:

  • Automation is essential for accountants;
  • Automation is often highly targeted; and
  • Automation has a big impact on people

Kirstin concluded her presentation with an examination of the changing skills and capabilities for accountants. Over the past few years, ICAEW has spent a substantial amount of time focussed on functional skill areas such as data and digital literacy, but the research results gave priority to behavioural attitude and way of working.

It is inevitable that technology will continue to change, which in turn will change the technology skills needed, but an individual’s attitude and willingness to learn is more important as it is not as ever-changing.

Peter went on to discuss the shift in technology from the lawyer perspective. He began by sharing the benefits of increased process automation and increased datafication. Increased process automation allows greater efficiency within the delivery of services. With less time spent on administration, lawyers have more time to spend discussing and meeting with clients, which aids in delivering results.

Peter reported that we can now use data to tell us far more and help us when it comes to those strategic choices, investments, decisions, and directions for business needs. With this information, increased datafication further assists lawyers in building a good relationship with their clients. Because of this, the increased use of datafication is a huge driver in the increased use of technology.

As for structures, there is far more multidisciplinary work being delivered. Barriers are being broken down, and new hybrid models are being developed. Peter also noted the increasingly interesting developments around smart contracted blockchain.

When considering future skills for young lawyers, Peter mentioned studying the use of technology and the need to understand blockchains, smart contracts and cryptocurrency. Peter also noted that we have to be careful in how we use technology, advising that we should not spend so much time on technology that it affects our actual work.

Many thanks to our exceptional speakers for providing their time and resources for this webinar. If you were unable to join our session on the day, or would like to go through the webcast again, we invite you to watch the webinar below for the discussion in full as well as view some of the resources which have been provided on this topic.


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