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Small accounting firms to get S$2.4m boost to go digital; roadmap eyes 2,000 new accounting jobs by 2020

SMALL and medium-sized accounting firms will get a S$2.4 million boost to go digital, as part of a new roadmap unveiled on Friday to spur growth in the sector.

The roadmap aims to create 2,000 new jobs in the sector by 2020, while helping accounting firms adopt new technologies and expand abroad. It also targets annual growth of 5.6 per cent for the sector to reach S$2.03 billion in value-add by 2020.

A key initiative is the new Digital Transformation for Accountancy programme, which will give small and medium-sized accounting practices funding support of up to S$30,000 for adopting technology solutions.

The programme will open for applications in the third quarter of 2018.

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It was launched on the back of findings from a national accountancy census conducted by the Singapore Accountancy Commission, which showed that the Big Four accounting firms as well as other large practices spent the most on technology adoption in 2016 also reported higher productivity gains.

Conversely, small and medium-sized accounting firms spent less on technology and reported negative productivity levels. Cost and a lack of knowledge were cited as common reasons for not adopting new technologies.

Another initiative under the new roadmap is a nationwide e-invoicing framework, which will help firms speed up business transactions while minimising disputes, errors and operating costs.

E-invoicing refers to the automated creation, exchange and processing of request for payments between suppliers and buyers using a standardised digital format.

In addition to productivity improvement efforts, the roadmap also makes training a priority for the sector.

On the back of a rise in white-collar crime, a new Professional Conversion Programme for financial forensic professionals has been launched. The programme aims to help mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians re-skill for a career in financial forensics. Individuals with a background in law enforcement, information systems, accounting and finance are preferred.

The roadmap also includes plans to promote technology collaborations within the industry, as well as court international accounting technology players keen on setting up regional research and development centres in Singapore.

To kick-start these efforts, Singapore's first accounting hackathon will be launched on Saturday and lasts till June 22.

Called the Accounting Innovation Challenge, participants will work with mentors from accountancy firms to co-create new business ideas and innovative solutions to solve industry problems.