ICAEW to incorporate emerging technologies into the ACA qualification

Monday 2 September 2019 – ICAEW is evolving its ACA qualification as part of an initiative to incorporate emerging technologies into accountancy education. Recognising the impact of technology on future skills, ICAEW is collaborating with Inflo, a leading provider of financial data analytics software to the accounting profession, to develop the skills required by advanced technologies, through knowledge and practical learning and examinations.

The collaboration will first focus on Audit and Assurance exams. Auditors in practice are increasingly using more advanced approaches to interrogate client data, applying techniques like data analytics to perform work such as risk assessment or fraud testing. ICAEW has been exploring ways the analytical and interpretive skills such techniques require can be incorporated in ACA training and assessment.

The collaboration will then expand into Corporate Reporting exams, with potential extension into other exams across the ACA qualification, recognising the relevance of data analysis techniques to a broad range of accounting services.

Mark Protherough, ICAEW Executive Director, Learning & Professional Development said: “We plan to incorporate the use of Inflo in each of the Audit and Assurance and Corporate Reporting exams, from 2021 onwards. The exam will task students with reviewing company data as well as a variety of visualisations and results from performing data analytics. Students will be required to analyse and interpret the results, provide commentary, justify their actions and articulate the conclusions they draw. In the Corporate Reporting exam, students will also be provided with advance information on a client’s interim results to read and assimilate before the exam, followed by the client’s full year being provided in the exam itself.

“This change is important in order to ensure that the ACA qualification remains relevant and practical. Hands-on use of data analytics techniques will enable the exams to reflect the current and future workplace and enhance assessment of professional judgement, scepticism and the use and interpretation of data analytics. Employers have been consulted globally on this issue as part of the consultations on the future of the ACA, and there is strong support for embedding technology across the syllabus”.

Many accountancy firms worldwide, from the largest mid-tier to the smallest independent firms, have integrated Inflo into their audit, tax and advisory work, which is why ICAEW decided to collaborate with them.  They are also working together to develop an Education Partnership Programme, which will ultimately be made available to organisations that train and examine accountancy.

Mark Edmondson, Inflo CEO said: “Having qualified with ICAEW myself, I have experienced first-hand the opportunities presented by obtaining the ACA qualification. Yet the world of business is different now from when I sat my exams. The role of accountants is rapidly changing and technology is the accelerant behind this change. Through embracing the resultant skills challenge and by incorporating emerging technologies within the ACA, ICAEW is ensuring that the accountancy profession remains attractive to those at the beginning of their career, while providing the skills and experience needed to have a long and successful one.”

ICAEW has already performed pilot testing, where current students with a broad range of technology experience attempted modified Audit and Assurance and Corporate Reporting exams. Feedback was very positive, in particular that the skills being taught and assessed better reflected how many students now work.

The new approach is planned to be introduced in 2021, starting with the March Audit and Assurance exam and then the July Corporate Reporting exam. Inflo will work closely with ICAEW’s Learning and Professional Development team, as well as examiners and other stakeholders, to produce client scenarios specifically designed to meet the needs of examinations. The new approach will be reflected in the 2021 learning materials, due to be published in September 2020.