Back to blog

Reflecting on our time at the Digital Accountancy Show 2024

Among the lasers and smoke machines here are some of our biggest learnings from the Digital Accountancy Show 2024 about technology and AML compliance.

When the mainstage fired up on the morning of the 16th April at Battersea Evolution you’d be remiss not to think that you’d somehow accidentally found your way into an Ibiza nightclub – with all the electronic dance music, lasers and flashing lights. That is the vibe of the Digital Accountancy Show (DAS) afterall though, it’s wanting to be seen in the same category as Xerocon, bringing a more innovative and different event to the accounting calendar, in an effort to make the accountancy profession modern and millennial. Whilst the lasers and smoke machines have a novel edge, it truly is an event that offers something different to other events or conferences we’ve attended to date. Here's a few snaps to (hopefully) bring some of that DAS 'vibe' into context.

Some photos from our time at the Digital Accountancy Show 2024

Speaker content is the priority at DAS, across the two day event there were 80 sessions, and hundreds of speakers. Whilst Accountex in London offers lots of talks too, there aren’t any other events the same size as this one that offer the same amount of content for its size. And it’s fair to say that the content for the show is much more tech forward, blue sky thinking, as was demonstrated this year by the number of artificial intelligence (AI) talks on the agenda.

We really enjoyed seeing, and listening to some of the content at this year's event, and to hear from global accounting stars like Jason Staats is rather special – in fact it was standing room only for Jason’s keynote session.

The realities of accounting in 2024

Whilst I am full of superlatives for how well the DAS team curates, and pulls together the conference, the conversations we had on the ground demonstrate a bit of a gap between the forward thinking nature of a high percentage of the talks and the realities of what most accountants experience on a day to day basis.

If you’re an accountant who is leading the charge with cloud adoption – you’ve no doubt learnt something new that will help elevate your practice, those who are still getting to grips with the power of cloud accounting, and aren’t quite fully leveraging tools like Xero just yet, then this might feel rather confronting for you.

A great example of this was there was a really insightful talk on AI and deep fakes in client onboarding, and ID verification as part of your required AML checks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really important to stay on top of this stuff, because it could become problematic. On the other hand, we had a number of conversations about this particular talk where we were asked if our software can spot deep fakes 😱, yet the same people didn’t have a fully standardised way of carrying out client risk assessments, and in some cases weren’t always doing them. These forward thinking talks are all about raising awareness, on the flip side they create new areas of concern and greater fear amongst the accounting community. Tackling deep fakes then becomes a priority over the basics. There is already a fear attached to AML compliance, this narrative only worsens it.

So whilst staying ahead of the game, being aware of the risks, and embracing innovation are all things we believe in at Firmcheck, and we also think it’s important to stay connected to the realities of the real challenges of AML compliance, and the gaps that exist today.

Our recent research found that:

  • 30% of firms surveys were without a standardised client risk assessment
  • And, 28% were without a firm-wide risk assessment

And during our conversations at DAS these numbers were more than backed up – in fact our research is only a small cross section of the UK accounting and bookkeeping industry and we can confidently say that the reality is higher than that, especially when it comes to client risk assessments.

Mastering AML compliance

There is always an element of overwhelm at any of these events – both for attendees but also for us as exhibitors.

What I love about accountants and bookkeepers is that they aspire to be on the pulse of new and developing technologies. And some parts of the accounting technology stack are seemingly well adopted and consistently leveraged to their potential (I’m thinking about tools like Xero, or Karbon), on the other hand especially in the AML management arena, there is too large of a gap between mastering the basics, and truly understanding how the right technology can help.

‘Mastering AML compliance’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to adopt technology either, we speak to a number of firms who are doing all the right things with their AML compliance, but they are typically using multiple tools (such as Excel and G-Drive), and doing a lot of KYC manually. 

And if any lesson is more pertinent than any other from the Digital Accountancy Show, it’s that ‘mastering AML compliance’ really just comes down to understanding the basics and then having a plan in place to implement those fundamentals. I had the joys of delivering a talk at DAS about leveraging project management principles to build an AML compliance roadmap. My main principles are actually knowing what you need to do to be AML compliant – so make sure you’re doing these six things, and you’re well on your way:

  • have a firm- wide AML risk assessment in place,
  • make sure your policies, controls and procedures are documented (and you actually refer to them),
  • you’ve done AML training and there is a record of that, 
  • clients and their beneficial owners’ ID’s have been verified, 
  • you’ve got an AML risk assessment conducted for each client, 
  • and last but not least you have an annual system of periodic reviews to test and update the firm's AML compliance (which means taking a look at how you’re doing with all of the above).

If you’re visiting Accountex next month (or up north in September) pop by to have a chat with us, and if you’ve also read this article and had a bit of a think about AML technology, or even your broader technology strategy our Executive Chairman, Hamish Edwards (also co-founded a rather large accounting software called Xero) is delivering a talk at Accountex in London this May, on how to leverage technology to grow your accounting firm.

That’s all from the Digital Accountancy Show 2024. I left feeling inspired, armed with a whole bunch of new insights, and more motivated than ever to continue innovating and simplifying AML compliance for accounting and bookkeeping firms – particularly the education part. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, seeing the wonderful accounting community up and down the country, and launching the next phase of our AML education in the coming months (it’s going to be truly game changing to help bring the level of AML knowledge up across the entire industry – or at least I think so).

(NB: This article doesn't constitute legal advice and is only intended for general informational purposes. Always consult with a legal expert or compliance consultant for guidance specific to your firm).

Share this post with others
Linkedin Icon
In this post