Think Brexit’s big for business? AI’s impact more profound, says KPMG expert

By James Nadal | 29th March 2019 | 15 min read

Shamus Rae, KMPG Partner, Head of Digital Disruption, is one of our expert guest speakers at our AI in Accountancy event on 2 April.

He heads up Intelligent Automation for KPMG - transforming the firm's services but also taking this experience into the market place to help clients embrace this new and disruptive technology. Shamus has led several client projects focusing on Artificial Intelligence strategy and implementation. He has spent the last 20 years delivering major transformation programmes.

In this interview with us, he explains more about where he sees AI going and why accountants should take note…

What got you interested in AI personally?

I’ve been a technologist since the late 1980s, when I learnt the first computing language (PROLOG), and I have been playing around with tech ever since.

I guess what got me interested more recently – it was around six years ago that I started re-engaging with AI – was intellectual curiosity. I was starting to see what impact it was going to have in various industries. I had started to read a lot of research by leading figures, such as Professor Hinton – the Godfather of AI. I started looking at how it might start impacting our firm and our clients.

What work have you been doing on AI already?

For the past four to five years, as Head of AI strategy and head of Digital Disruption at KPMG, I have been looking at how it will impact operational efficiency within clients’ businesses and how KPMG can assist. I’ve been examining AI across industries, looking at the future of audit tax business models, and working with various committees and Governments in different countries and also ICAEW.

How do you see the future of AI? Do you think it will become common place and when?

I think all the major firms, the big 4 or 6, maybe are already using AI in different parts of our businesses but for some, they’re still at the early stages. Others are more progressed but the impact for three to five years from now is going to be profound, in terms of the ability to improve audit and, I think, in a very significant way. It will be led by the UK and US – for audit – with the UK slightly ahead.

Investment banking is going for the highest most sophisticated form of automation and there will be a lot happening in that area. Of course, businesses have been trying to plan for what they see as the biggest current challenge – Brexit – but AI will have an even more profound impact than Brexit across industries.

What are the challenges for AI?

You have got to be careful about the data you use in the AI. It has its problems as well. For example, Tay was an artificially intelligent chatbot created by Microsoft that had to be axed in the first 24 hours after being launched on Twitter because it started making racist comments and denying the holocaust. The company had to apologise but said its creation’s views were a result of nurture, not nature, and had been targeted by a group of people who had fed it certain views.

Why should accountants come to the event and take a closer look at AI for their practices?

I’ll be looking at AI’s impact on accounting at the event. I will talk about what AI means for the profession short and mid-term and what changes will need to happen to make it competitive, including looking at the five year business model. There will be serious hypothesis around that. I’ll go into some use cases, which show we are bringing greater efficiency within accounting.

People definitely need convincing about AI, and that requires some education around its benefits. At the moment they think it’s going to work through low-end junior transactional work but that won’t be true going forward. A lot of that will be automated. Many businesses are not yet realising the business model impact and how to adjust their organisations and create senior finance professionals of the future.

Join us for the event

To hear Shamus talk about all of these matters and more in-depth, offering his wealth of experience, join us on April 2 at AI for Accountancy.

To register your interest, buy tickets, and see the full agenda please visit this page

As well as Shamus, delegates will hear from guest speakers Vijay Rathour from Grant Thornton, Stuart Cobb and Gillian Fischer from MindBridge Ai, and Steve Cox, IRIS Chief Evangelist.

Sign up today!

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the blog are personal to the guest speaker and not that of IRIS