Steve Douglas, left, KPMG’s Calgary audit business unit leader, and Jassie Kang, partner and audit innovation leader at KPMG Calgary, with some early accounting technology — an abacus. The industry continues to evolve as new technologies emerge. Wil Andruschak © 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Joel Schlesinger © 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
It’s a giant leap from the humble abacus to artificial intelligence (AI), but the auditing profession has made it.
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the profession. Both the information we audit, and how we audit, is changing rapidly. Technology and innovation are driving audit quality and value to new heights” says Steve Douglas, Calgary-based audit partner-in-charge at KPMG in Canada.
AI, or “cognitive technology” is increasingly being used across many businesses and industries, including corporate auditing services.
The backbone of public markets, auditing is a data-driven business if there ever was one. Consequently many of the latest advances in data analytics are disruptive game-changers for the industry, says Douglas, a chartered professional accountant and Audit Partner at the global professional services firm.
“One of the biggest benefits for our industry that has come out of the evolution of technology is predictive analytics,” says Douglas.
KPMG has been an industry leader in this respect, adopting AI technology, robotics and predictive analytics to help its team of skilled auditors deliver high-quality audits with added insights into a company’s business.
Not only do KPMG’s auditors pore over the financial statements, providing assurance to shareholders over the accuracy of the numbers, but by analyzing complete data sets KPMG is able to provide more in-depth insights to clients on current business results and future risks.
And that’s where data analytics innovation plays a pivotal role.
Working with leading technology partners such as IBM and Microsoft, KPMG is constantly pushing the limits of what an audit can offer clients.
“For example, we’ve developed a loan portfolio tool using IBM’s Watson technology,” says Jassie Kang, partner and audit innovation leader at KPMG Calgary, referring to Big Blue’s famous AI-based computer that went undefeated on Jeopardy. “The more data it sees, the more it learns.”
The company is already using similar technology with its new smart auditing platform known as KPMG Clara.
“KPMG Clara brings to bear intelligent automation to help auditors go through vast amounts of data faster and more accurately,” he says.
“It’s a powerful and agile platform that enhances audit quality and allows us to deliver deeper actionable insights for our clients.”
But that’s just the beginning at KPMG.
In the near future, its software will enable program review of unstructured data and source documents, reading, extracting and compiling key information that will then be matched to company financial records. All the advances aside, however, auditing will always need a human touch.
“It’s still the audit professional that is at the helm, deciding how and where to use technology available to them, and interpreting the results. The significant risks in an audit will continue to be those that involve the most amount of judgment.” Douglas says.
“That’s what we really train our people to do — to tackle complex and difficult situations and get the right answer.”
This feature was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.