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ACCA: Big data creating new opportunities

01/05/14

Big data analytics and the cross-industry rush to engage with the large amounts of information becoming available is changing the role of accountants and chief financial officers within organisations, an expert has claimed.

Writing in City AM, Sarah Hathaway, UK head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), outlined some of the preliminary research carried out by the organisation on the effects of big data on the financial services market and elsewhere.

The former has been one of the quickest adapters of the technology, which offers the tantalising prospect of being able to predict volatile market behaviour more accurately.

However, big data is having an impact across all sectors, according to Ms Hathaway.

Advances in automation, such as self-service data retrieval, are making it easier for accountants to spend their time on value-adding tasks - potentially allowing them to alter their business profile fundamentally.

"Trained to gather, analyse and benchmark information, and to use data in modelling and forecasting, accountants and finance professionals can provide a new and critical service: making big data smaller, 'distilling' vast amounts of information into actionable insights," added Ms Hathaway.

Whatever the sector they work in, accountants with the ability to up-skill for the big data era could see themselves becoming 'custodians', setting ethical and quality standards when it comes to the use of information in making strategic decisions for clients.

Fundamentally this will allow them to become extremely important to their organisations, concluded the ACCA chief.

"Big data also offers the finance professional the possibility of moving further into a more strategic, proactive role in business," declared Ms Hathaway.

That being said, though, the opportunities can become pitfalls for workers that are not given the chance to develop their skills in line with the emergence of big data as a major strategic issue.

Accountants who take steps to learn more about information analysis and form new collaborations across their organisation will be best placed to benefit, the ACCA chief concluded.

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