Automation Key To Strengthening Hong Kong Companies’ Competitive Edge, Finds Joint Survey By KPMG And ACCA

13 March 2018 | Hong Kong companies may lose their competitive edge if they fail to invest in and adopt automation, finds a joint survey by KPMG China and ACCA Hong Kong. The survey, titled Hong Kong’s Automated Future, features 388 responses from senior Hong Kong executives, as well as finance and accounting professionals. It analyses the current take-up of automation, with a particular focus on Robotics Process Automation (RPA) – a form of digital labour – implementation within finance functions.

Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated their company is likely to fall behind the competition if they do not adopt RPA. Meanwhile, almost half (49 percent) of respondents said their level of automation was low and was limited to capturing transactional data, while 77 percent said they recognised their firms have further potential to automate manual and repetitive processes. Additionally, only 7 percent of respondents indicated they have an annual budget for robotics and automation.

The survey also highlights sectors that are leading in RPA adoption, including technology, telecommunications, banking and finance. The manufacturing sector was identified as one of the laggards.

Isabel Zisselsberger, Partner and Head of Financial Management, KPMG China, says: “Automation is an opportunity for Hong Kong companies that cannot be missed. Our survey finds that senior executives are demanding greater and faster insights as well as value from finance functions. Meanwhile, the government has introduced a number of initiatives to establish Hong Kong as a regional innovation and technology hub. This includes the recent HKD50 billion earmarked for the development of innovation and technologies.”

Key RPA investment drivers include: refocusing resources on value-added tasks, minimising errors associated with manual processes, as well as cost savings. Respondents also highlighted a number of challenges, for example, perceived benefits do not outweigh costs; lack of knowledge; having sufficient manpower to cover manual or routine work.

Eunice Chu, Head of Policy, ACCA Hong Kong, says: “A lack of knowledge and awareness of new technologies slows adoption of RPA. Many companies, particularly SMEs, do not know where and how to start and, consequently, fear the impact such technologies could have on their businesses.”

“Training is a particularly important area companies should invest in. As new technologies, including robotics automation, continue to grow in Hong Kong, there will be a greater need for staff with knowledge and experience in handling such tools,” adds Chu.

“In order to stay ahead of the competition, companies will need to establish a long- term plan that revolves around training, retraining and redeployment of staff. New Budget measures such as relaxation of the eligibility criteria for the Technology Voucher Programme, and increased subsidies for the Continuing Education Fund, could help both companies and individuals to prepare for the challenges and opportunities arise from automation.”

Hong Kong has the right characteristics to be a leader in the adoption of new technologies. As an international financial, trade and logistics, and professional services hub, the city is home to many businesses that are running complex operations.

Zisselsberger concludes: “To survive and thrive as the digital environment evolves in Hong Kong, businesses will need to develop new skillsets. We advise CFOs and finance teams to start embracing robotics processing and artificial intelligence, using data and analytics and deploying emerging technologies that can transform the function.”

About the Survey
KPMG China and ACCA Hong Kong jointly conducted a survey in the fourth quarter of 2017 to understand the current state of automation technologies in Hong Kong, with a particular focus on RPA implementation within finance functions. The survey received 388 responses from C-level executives as well as finance and accounting professionals.

The respondents were drawn from a diverse range of industries, including finance and banking, professional services, manufacturing, real estate, retail, information technology and telecommunications, insurance, and government and public administration.

The vast majority of the respondents were either finance or accounting executives, followed by CFOs and CEOs.

About KPMG China
KPMG China operates in 16 cities across China, with around 12,000 partners and staff in Beijing, Beijing Zhongguancun, Chengdu, Chongqing, Foshan, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Xiamen, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR. With a single management structure across all these offices, KPMG China can deploy experienced professionals efficiently, wherever our client is located.

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 154 countries and territories and have 200,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

In 1992, KPMG became the first international accounting network to be granted a joint venture licence in mainland China. KPMG China was also the first among the Big Four in mainland China to convert from a joint venture to a special general partnership, as of 1 August 2012. Additionally, the Hong Kong office can trace its origins to 1945. This early commitment to the China market, together with an unwavering focus on quality, has been the foundation for accumulated industry experience, and is reflected in the Chinese member firm’s appointment by some of China’s most prestigious companies.

About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to
people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding
career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 200,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping
them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and more than 7,200 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

As the first global accountancy body entering into China, ACCA now has 24,000 members and 86,000 students, with 11 offices in Beijing, Changsha, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Qingdao, Wuhan, Hong Kong SAR, and Macau SAR.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accounting professionals bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.

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