Accountancy & Financial Management

Industry Insights: Navigating Trends in Accounting

Explore the latest trends in accounting with Shenola Gonzales, Head of Malaysia at ICAEW, as she shares her perspective on emerging trends, essential digital skills, and the evolving responsibilities in the field of accountancy.
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Industry Insights: Navigating Trends in Accounting

gradmalaysia's Industry Insights delivers quick expert perspectives on current industry trends, hiring insights and useful tips for fresh graduates gearing up to kickstart their careers with confidence and success.

About the Interviewee

Shenola Gonzales, the Head of ICAEW Malaysia, plays a pivotal role in expanding ICAEW's membership and presence in the country. With over 20 years of experience in finance, Shenola has worked in companies of various sectors and sizes, from small and medium-sized enterprises to public listed corporations, covering managerial finance, business consulting, and mergers & acquisition. 

A Chemical Engineering graduate from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, she became an ICAEW member in 2001. Having ventured into entrepreneurship and served as Head of Investments in South-East Asia, Shenola is recognised for simplifying complex financial concepts. Her adaptability and commitment to excellence were key drivers in her significant contributions to ICAEW's growth in Malaysia.

Q: How is the growing integration of technology influencing job roles in the accountancy sector, and which digital skills do you consider essential for graduates entering the field? 

Technology has enabled automation of many elements of accountancy and finance, and this provides an opportunity for chartered accountants to utilise their professional skills but also the need to add to them.

It is essential that accountants today not only understand businesses, but also the technology that drives these businesses – paramount of all is the need to understand data. Understanding data is the cornerstone of many decision-making processes that is necessary to grow businesses today. Understanding data analytics require accountants today to also understand where the data comes from, how it is used and where it can be of most useful for the accountant – hence, the need to also understand artificial intelligence (AI) as well as virtual environments where data analytics are widely used. 

Q: How have job responsibilities evolved in accounting over the past few years, and what advice do you have for graduates adapting to these changes?

Like many other professions – jobs are changing due to the advent of new technology including the use of cloud and virtual environment, data analytics and AI in helping to enhance and better decision-making processes. 

Hence, that is why it is important for accountants today to acquire and have a professional qualification – as one of the advantages of being part of a professional body is the continuous professional development (CPD) resources available that help accountants today to keep up to date with the technology and knowledge to be relevant today. 

Q: With the growing importance of data analytics, how do you see the role of accountants evolving, and what specific data-related skills should graduates focus on to stay competitive?

Understanding data is the cornerstone of many decision-making processes that is necessary to grow businesses today. Hence, it is essential for accountants to understand how to mine data, use, and manipulate data using visualisation and computational (including simple programming – e.g. using Python programming/ Power BI, etc.) to enhance the decision-making process.

Q: How is the trend towards globalisation impacting the demand for accountants with international expertise, and what steps can graduates take to position themselves as global-ready professionals?

By taking up the ICAEW qualification! The ICAEW ACA qualification prepare chartered accountants by equipping them with real-world business skills along with a curriculum that is updated on a yearly basis. These skills provide the ICAEW chartered accountant with the ability to understand everyday business needs and how improve these processes to grow and enhance businesses. 

Q: Beyond technical expertise, what soft skills are becoming increasingly valuable in the sector, and how can graduates develop and showcase these skills for career advancement?

Highlighting the increasing importance of soft skills in the accounting sector, let me shed light on a unique aspect of the ICAEW qualification. One of the unique features of the ICAEW qualification is the inclusion of compulsory work experience into the programme – where students must be employed as part of their training to complete the qualification. The students are to complete a list of employability skills whilst undergoing the training during employment – which is a compulsory part of their training to qualify as a chartered accountant. 

Some of these skills (which are logged into their online training file during their training before they qualify) include ethics, leadership, decision-making, adding value, teamwork, and many more skills that are essential to a chartered accountant. 

These skills are further honed and updated even after the student has completed the programme and become a chartered accountant – via the continuous professional raining (CPDs) that all ICAEW members must undertake every year.