Half of the finance professionals in the APAC region think their jobs will be displaced or massively transformed over the next decade. Source: Shutterstock

Half of the finance professionals in the APAC region think their jobs will be displaced or massively transformed over the next decade. Source: Shutterstock

Could technology replace accountants in a couple of years?

THE NOTION that emerging technologies would reduce and eventually displace the jobs of industrial workers in the manufacturing sector is all but accepted at this point.

But would technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and fintech also replace jobs within the finance industry?

According to a recent survey by the CFA Institute, half of the finance professionals in the APAC region think that their jobs will be either be replaced of transformed substantially by emerging technologies. Up to 48 percent of their peers around the globe feel the same way.

The organization, which is a global association of investment professionals, issues many professional designations such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and have accredited up to 165,000 professionals in over 165 countries.

About 3,832 members participated in the poll with 33 percent of them coming from the APAC region.

CFA’s MD for APAC Nick Pollard in commenting on the survey, said that job loss is inevitable with the advent of transformative technologies.

“Technological disruption is certainly driving change in the investment industry worldwide – and some jobs may no longer exist. However, it does not mean we have fewer people in the investment industry.

“It only means professionals will need to learn new skill sets to handle more sophisticated tasks which AI cannot perform.”

The future workplace requires a combination of AI and human intelligence, according to him, whereby machines will be doing routine jobs while humans will taking on more critical roles that require judgments and cognitive functions.

Accountants to become obsolete in APAC?

Despite the sentiment, the poll also found that that majority within the body believe that number of finance professionals – such as brokers, hedge fund managers, financial analyst – will grow by 16 percent in the next decade to 1.2 million globally, from the current number of 1 million.

Meanwhile, they three jobs that are most likely to disappear in APAC, according to the study were accountants or auditors (17 percent), research analysts (13 percent) and stock sales agents (9 percent).

Accountants and analysts may sometimes spend up to week parsing through annual reports and spreadsheets to aggregate data, but Pollard said that AI could complete this arduous task within seconds.

Furthermore, traders and sales agents are now forced to compete with online trading facilities, and with the maturation and enhance UI/UX of fintech products customers may want to cut the middlemen out completely.

These scenarios are already unfolding in Hong Kong, one of APAC financial hub. Just last year, Hong Kong’s Insurance Authority issued insurance license to Bowtie Life whose business model is to sell insurance premiums directly to consumers online, without using any agents.

Beyond that, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has granted eight virtual banking license since March this year alone. These banks will not have a physical branch and will serve their customers exclusively online.

However, not everyone is entirely sold on the idea that technology will completely replace the human workforce in the financial sector. The chairman of industry body Hong Kong Securities Association, Gary Cheung Wai-kwok, is one of them.

“There are areas that require human intervention, which machines or AI will not comprehend,” said Cheung.