Alumnus, Mark Edmondson, CEO and President of Inflo joined us back at the Business School to deliver an Accounting and Finance Seminar sharing innovative insights into the Future of External Audit.
Why is there a need for technology in accounting?
Mark Edmondson co-founded Inflo to help tackle the lengthy auditing process which may involve information being transferred across numerous networks. There is also the issue that when transferring this information people are risking sending their confidential financial details via email which poses a potential threat for cyber theft.
Issues surrounding traditional auditing sampling were discussed and how the traditional technique of sampling a finite number of transactions could be replaced using technology to analyse more transactions helping identification of unusual transactions instantly.
All Big Four accounting firms heavily invested in technology following the recommendations to make the industry more competitive with mandatory rotation. This new technology resulted in the cost of auditing reducing and therefore the Big Four were able to target new clients by offering their services to smaller businesses.
Mark and his co-founders’ experience of working in the industry within PwC meant that they were able to witness the advances in technology and how clients were adapting to this, allowing them to see an opportunity to help smaller businesses engage with this technology. The cloud concept started to mature, meaning that within 6 months of founding Inflo, they were operating globally.
What challenges did Mark face when launching his platform?
Mark explained how it was important to consider data skills by ensuring that users weren’t required to be data analyst experts to use the software. There was also the need to avoid requiring businesses to make a huge investment into the software. An important consideration was to ensure that the software conformed to existing Auditing Standards as well as considering data ingestion by understanding the many different accounting systems used by businesses and how the software could talk to these.
The ideal discussed was a move away from businesses simply using Excel spreadsheets, instead moving towards visualisations which Inflo provides. Mark practically demonstrated the platform during the session, the idea of a heat map being particularly interesting (see image below) a technique which can assist in identifying where there are discrepancies.
It is considered that clients want more value from their accountants; Inflo aims to address this by working differently with the client, as a business partner rather than just acting to confirm compliance. This involves working with the client throughout the year rather than once a year at the time of auditing.
The platform also collects a variety of data which can help identify fraudulent behaviour such as when information is inputted outside of working hours.
Will technology take over accounting completely?
“No, humans are still in the driving seat but they just have more tools available to them. Our technology allows AI to be trained by what humans do and AI passes information back to the human to make a more informed decision, known as hybrid intelligence.”
A quote from Christopher Soan, Senior Lecturer, Accounting and Finance:
“I was delighted for the inaugural Accounting Futures seminar to be delivered by Mark, a former Business Accounting and Finance student of Newcastle University Business School. The Alumni Association is such an important network and the seminar practically demonstrated how students’ aspirations can become a reality. With some excellent questions from the audience of staff and students, the seminar provided practical demonstration of how technology can help in the analysis of an organisation’s transactions; an evolution in traditional audit methodologies. Graduate opportunities at Inflo were also discussed, so there are plenty of opportunities available to our students. Thank you Mark!”
Written By Lauren Bell, Alumni Relations Intern