Technology and New Silk Road infrastructure projects will boost EY growth in Asia-Pacific

Increased demand from clients – especially for digital services – has allowed EY to record its fastest growth globally in Asia-Pacific in the past three years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 10:24pm

Technology-related projects as well as New Silk Road-related opportunities in infrastructure development will be major growth engines for professional services firm EY in Asia-Pacific in the coming years, according to Steven Phan, chairman and area managing partner for Asia-Pacific at EY.

“Asia-Pacific has been the fastest-growing area for EY globally in the past three years, and I am positive about growth in the next few years – because of the disruptions caused by technology and the opportunities in infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Phan.

The Asia-Pacific region, where EY has hired 44,000 professionals, reported a total revenue of US$3.7 billion for the 12 months to the end of June, up more than 11 per cent compared with a year ago. This is higher than a global growth of 7.8 per cent during the same period, Phan told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview.

Asia-Pacific represented about 12 per cent of global revenue – US$32 billion – for the year to the end of June. Over the past three years, the firm’s Asia-Pacific business has enjoyed an annual growth rate of more than 11 per cent.

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“A younger population and the rise of the middle class have helped the Asia-Pacific region attract significant investment and will drive economic growth in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Growth is also being driven by the many infrastructure projects part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a plan Beijing launched in 2013 to work with 65 countries in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe to build roads, railways, ports, power plants and other infrastructure projects to promote trade and economic growth.

“EY has a dedicated team specialising in infrastructure that works across Asia-Pacific and we have provided a lot of professional services to clients in these areas. And demand is set to increase in the coming years,” Phan said.

In addition, many companies want to use newer technologies such as robotic-process automation and artificial intelligence to cut down on operating costs and to enhance efficiency. EY has dedicated teams that specialise in fintech and other digital offerings, and has helped companies adapt to newer technological changes and to understand the opportunity these represent, Phan said.

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EY itself uses technology and automation to conduct some accounting work but Phan does not believe robots will replace accountants. “When I first joined the profession in the 1970s, we used calculators to manually add up numbers, and not every one had a personal computer.”

“Nowadays, we can review our work papers using smartphones. This shows the advancement of technology in the audit process. EY has also automated manual processes allowing our auditors to focus on judgment areas and have better insights through the application of data and analytics.

“This automation process removes us from manual work. But we still need good accountants to do the analysis work, and to give good advice to clients,” Phan said.