Financial industry aims to stay on top of emerging tech

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Technology in the financial services industry is continually changing, and accountants across the country are taking notice.

Avani Desai, president of Florida-based Schellman & Co., said in an Accounting Today story that more and more firms are investing in automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain so auditors can work more efficiently.

“From an industry standpoint, these changes will likely prompt a cultural shift, especially for financial auditors, although in the grand scheme of things, all auditors will be able to work smarter and not harder,” she said. “In fact, synergy between financial and IT auditors will increase as we all work closer to get, not just reasonable assurance, but a level of ‘absolute’ assurance for certain audit procedures. Gone are the days of sample testing — soon, we will all be heavily reliant on client data to give us true continuous auditing and monitoring. Overall, automation and AI will streamline both internal and external audit processes and allow more time to be spent on higher-risk areas while reducing time spent on transactional processes.”

Those are some of the innovative methods — automation, AI and blockchain in addition to analytics and technological applications — Crowe’s Ryan Roxbury, the director of experience design, said they are using to secure client data.

He leads the user interface/user experience team for the firm’s software solutions that comes out of its innovation development process.

The accounting firm approved $8.7 million (1%) of its 2020 fiscal year budget, which ends in April, toward the exploration of 12 new ideas and further development of 15 existing concepts.

Three ideas-turned-solutions, based on cybersecurity threats, were launched as a result of the funds. Troy La Huis, principal digital security leader at Crowe, said in December that they released Crowe Cyber Aware, which is a risk quantification tool that allows the chief information security officer to help them financially quantify their cybersecurity risk.

“It could be one of the most influential solutions that we can bring to our CISO clients because it creates visibility around how to quantify their potential losses regarding a cybersecurity incident and specifically how to take corrective actions to improve,” he said. “Once they know what they are trying to protect, then we can help them quantify what their risk is in financial terms, which is something very few organizations can do today.”

The other two cybersecurity solutions Crowe launched were its Management Detection and Respond solution and Crowe Security Insights.

La Huis said its Management Detection and Respond solution was the first tool that was launched during the 2020 fiscal year. It is an outsourced security solution that allows Crowe to identify, manage and respond to cyber and digital security threats for its clients.

“If you think about what any organization needs to do with regards to cybersecurity, there is a handful of things they are thinking about,” he said. “One of them is, ‘How do I prevent an attack from occurring, and how do I identify all the things that I need to put in place?’ Then there is another aspect of cybersecurity, which is about protection and response. Most people will tell you that preventive measures are absolutely necessary, but they will not keep the bad actors out 100% of the time.

“So, you need to be prepared and understand when someone is trying to destroy your organization and then you need to be able to respond effectively and swiftly to minimize the impact, so we built this Management Detection and Response solution, which allows us to serve that role for our clients. We become a part of their network and we put technology into their network that allows us to monitor the traffic and we funnel all that traffic back to one of our cybersecurity labs and we have a team of individuals who work both in the United States and India to monitor the activity of our clients and take appropriate action if something looks unusual or suspicious and then work with the clients to respond to that incident.”

According to La Huis, Crowe Security Insights is a self-assessment tool and software agent that clients can download onto their networks to identify weak points.

Roxbury said they are working on other ideas, some of which are generated by their clients, to figure out whether they will manifest into solutions. He said it is a long process that begins with idea generation, which moves onto different stages, including concept exploration, evaluation, design, development and then launch.

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