The first reaction I get when I tell Finance Students/ Professionals to Learn to code, are:
- Why not leave this coding stuffs for those who are actually Good at it…..Like for the Computer Science Engineers.
- We are finance professionals and hence we should focus on being technically sound and building our Domain knowledge , rather than building python bots
- Is it not enough reading those bulky Income tax books ,Companies acts , Ind AS and GST , that you want us to learn the Coding Syntax as well?
People say "A CA/CS/CMA/MBA was never meant for coding, and Coding was never meant for CA/CS/CMA/MBA."
I fully agree, no doubts, but the Important word in this statement to focus is "was". A CA was never meant to do coding, but with the level of Automation that is going around, and more specifically in Finance field, it is going to be a basic requirement for Finance professionals to have a working level knowledge of coding. It is most probably going to be a must have skill (like the Excel in today's time). Stereotypically, accounting professionals are straight-laced number-crunchers. But, its high time now that we change the perspective so that the Finance professional are viewed as one who can offer strategic insight and advice on compliance, cost savings and mitigate threats within the company. And to do this, automation is a great weapon (and probably the only one).
Going forward, in this article/post, I might be mentioning Chartered Accountant (CA) in many places. But, CA may please be referred as CA/CS/CWA/MBA/Any other finance Professional.
So, I will divide it discussion into 3 sections:
- Has it really become critical in Current times that we learn coding?
- Are we going to get any actual benefit out of learning to code, or it’s just like taking another certification course/ hobby?
- Any substantial consequences, if we don’t learn it?
And, if you are convinced till the third section that you should learn coding, then you can follow the last section, which is:
- Okay, So, how can I start to learn it then?
A. Has It really Become Critical In Current times that we learn coding?
So, for this I will share with you one of the many similar job Posts which I came across in LinkedIn few weeks back, where a company based out of Bangalore shared hiring for a position of Finance Executive.
For a Finance Executive, the skills they are looking for is SQL. Really? Can you believe this? Many of us might not even be knowing what SQL actually is and what it is used for. And I was even surprised when I scrolled down through the Comments in this post, some Computer Science Graduates were Commenting as 'Interested for the role'. Hello? Can’t we see something wrong here? We all have become accustomed to post saying MS Excel is a must skill for job. Sooner in few years, I would not be surprised to see a lot of such post, where a basic Coding / Programming would be a must skill for a Finance Job.
Now, let me clarify first that coding/ Programming doesn’t mean to build a facebook, or a whatsapp… Coding simply means, a Language of the Computer. Since, we day in and day out, work with computers, if we know the language of the computer as well, we might be able to make computers do some task which in current situation is being done by us manually…That's it. That is the level of programming you need to know. No one says you to be an expert. And, believe me, its no way a rocket science to learn coding. Its far far easier than computing a PGBP taxable income. And you will agree to this in the last section.
You are already and expert in Auditing/ Company secretaryship/ Costing/ Taxation/ Corporate Laws. So, anyways, you have to maintain this expertise and be regularly updated with frequent amendments. But, to stay relevant in decades to come, it is utmost important that we embrace technology , bring in automation and be efficient in our ways of working.
A client should not come to us on one day before due date to get his GSTR-3B filed, or to get his ITR Filed. Instead, a Client should come to us for certification, for consultancy of certain transactions for which an expert opinion is required.
And, anyways if some client do come to us for return filings as well, we should have an IT driven mechanism, which could do that task without much of a manual intervention, and we should also end up giving him some other insights from the data in addition to his return filing.
Robotic Process Automation has already started automating many of the Finance related tasks like MIS reporting, data analytics and managing databases across hundreds of Corporates.
There is nothing to fear about automation and AI, but it is just that, if we run way from it, then our situation in 2030 will be very similar to a person who doesn’t know how to operate computer/ internet in 2021. So, faster we embrace it, the more value we will be able to unlock out of it and get the First mover advantage. So, I hope we now understand that it has actually become critical in today’s time to learn coding/ automation.
B. Are we going to get any actual benefit out of learning to code, or its just like taking another certification course/hobby?
Many people learn coding/ Programming as a hobby. But, for Finance Professional, I can literally talk hours explaining the real benefits from learning to program. But, for this article, let me stick to pointing out some real life benefits which I believe a Finance Professional can get.
1. For CA in Practice
If you are a CA in practice, I want you to take a look around what are the tasks you have been doing on day-to-day basis. And, also what type of Task your team is involved on day to day basis.
Probability 1: Most of your time is involved in interacting with clients discussing about the new amendments introduced and how it affects their Is there any change in Corporate Structure that could lead them in better tax Planning? How, Ind AS 116 should be implemented in their company. How can we proceed on the 'Vivaad Se Vishwas' Scheme of govt and reduce the litigation exposure?
Also, You team of Articles / executive are involved in studying about the new changes in Law/ Tax/ Companies Act and making reports for the client, making submissions for the client. The task are usually client specific and requires interpretation of the law to implement it in the scenario of client.
Probability 2: You have a large base of client, who rely on you for their IT returns, GST returns, MCA Filings, maintenance of books, Assurance and Internal Audit related So, most of your time is spent in performing various tasks for the clients, which are quite similar for all the clients.
Your team of Articles/ Executive have specific areas assigned to them, who maintain excel spreadsheet for clients, file their return. In case you use a software for IT return filing / GST return filing, life would be a bit simpler, but again a lot of time goes in fetching data of client, and making returns for each client and getting the right data in in the right format. Your Audit team is involved in obtaining 'true and fair view' of financial Statements, so they might be handling large sets of excel data , trying to obtain some audit observations out of it.
Now, in case of Probability 1, you might not be able to benefit much out of coding (other than some web scrapping , which will help you fetch real time data). Because you are actually not involved in doing repetitive tasks and each tasks require intellect and technical knowledge. Even such type of tasks will continue in log run.
But, if you fall under probability 2, you would wish that if the things could be a bit streamlined. If only there could be a standardized process and uniformity in way of working across clients. You wish the repetitive process involved in making of return could be automated. If only we could draw more useful insights from the clients financial data which could assist him in his business decisions and not just do the bare minimum tasks. So In such Case, Learning to automate repetitive tasks is something that should be your first priority.
2. For CA/CS/ CWA looking for Job
People say that CA is losing its sheen nowadays. There is no much scope for CA. Value of CA is degrading. All these stuffs.
Lets me tell you that 'You are RIGHT.!' Definitely a CA is losing his sheen if he continues to potray himself as someone who is good with numbers and just knows all the provisions of the GST and Income Tax.
Company no longer requires number crunchers, but instead they are looking for people who can help them automate the financial Processes that happen in their company, and one who can draw better insights from the financial data and not only prepare those data. (This aspect can be proved by the Linked In Post which I shared)
And if CA / CWA are unwilling to help the companies in automating their financial processes, its Fine, the companies are willing to hire Computer Software Engineers who are eager to learn basics of Finance and help the companies automate the tasks.
There is a great opening in new domain which never was in vogue before. A domain where professional having Basic Finance Knowledge and also the skill of working with Databases, some small coding , Data Visualization tools required and also in high demand. So, this new skills in your resume may help you land up you in your dream company even if you might not have great grades.
3. CA/CS/CWA /MBA working in a Corporate Job
Well, for those who are already in their corporate job, must be knowing that companies already are investing heavily in automation . Since their factories are already automated, the wave of automation is towards the admin offices which is a store house of so many crucial data. They want the processes to be quick in these admin offices so that accurate MIS can be delivered in prompt manner without reminder mails.
In such case, a company will definitely value your efforts towards learning automation and assisting company in better and streamlined processes. This is sure to bring you appreciation and may be even a better hike in your office.(Too Optimistic by the way..)
4. For CA/CS/CWA students doing their articleship
The articles working under a Principal in a firm are the people who actually get to do most of the repetitive tasks. I think having to do repetitive tasks is the best thing for them. It is because, only when you do a repetitive tasks, you can appreciate the importance of Automation. And , the first year of articleship is probable the best time you should invest on learning the coding, because you neither have the pressure to study nor the expectation from you in the office is high, so you can note what are the repetitive tasks performed in your office and learn to automate them.
And, if you are able to learn this skill and write it in your CV, it is going to immensely help you sail through shortlisting and also through interviews and your resume will have a better edge than others.
The task which you automate in your office during articleship can be used in filling up the spaces of Extra Curricular activities, which you currently fill by writing "Interested in playing Badminton/ Captain of my College Cricket team"
(But, just a word of caution over here, please stay focussed that you have joined CA/CS/CWA to first become a professional, so , don’t be derailed from studies. That is the basic of your education, that must always be a focus. The time you spend on Fb, Insta, Youtube, TVFs Aspirants, can be used to learn more about programming and automation.)
Just a bonus benefit as well, the trend of paying so low stipend to CA/CS articles may also change , if the articles are able apply in their daily working and teach automation to their office teams which will definitely be valued by the principals and their clients.
C. What if we don’t learn it?
After going through the benefits if you still have this question, don’t worry I can understand. Well, frankly, You won’t see a direct harm, even if you don’t know coding. And may be the work profile you handle doesn’t actually require it. Like if you fall under the Probability 1 as I described it above, you might never feel the requirement to learn coding and still you will be able to deliver Value to your clients.
But, if you are actually involved in doing some repetitive task, and still don’t apply automation of such task, it is probable that the task which you do will no longer be a "VALUE ADDING TASK" for your employer or the client. And no one would be willing to pay for something , which has no Value for them.
If you think, I am hyping up the stuffs and it won’t be a reality, just have look around ,and have a Good Look around you, the ongoing speed of the Smart Apps, Alexa, Siri, Smart Watches and Machine Learning , do you really think , a client will pay you fees for maintaining his Books of accounts by looking at the bank statement , filing the details of his sales in GSTR-1, after 10 years?
Well, I have a serious doubt…..!!!
Rest , it is solely you to decide, whether you want to Learn to make use of technology and automate tasks? And if the answer is in affirmative, please continue reading below:
D. So, How can I start to learn to automate tasks then?
Well, do not directly jump into some BootCamp for coding or some training. The first language which I recommend everyone to start with is Python language. I would recommend everyone that First Make a list of those tasks which are actually a big headache for you and you wish that it could be done by the Computer. Note here that if the task involves some logical reasoning (like if this then that, otherwise not) then such task can be automated, but if something requires sujective approach (like interpretations of laws), then such will be difficult to automate (or will require advanced Machine Learning which we don’t want to learn now). Out of those list of tasks, Pick ONLY ONE, jus one among them and the do the below:
- Break the one task into small steps
- Google on how similar steps can be performed using You might land up in some videos , so save those videos for watch alter.
- Now, Learn the basic of Installing Python and the basic knowledge of different basic terminologies .
- You can now start watching that Watch Later videos and tart writing code along side
But, you know what, it is easier said than done. There is bound to be many hurdles in the way. And if you do not have a good support system at such times, you are bound to quit and get back to doing things the old way.
So, always have your support system ready. NOW, what is the SUPPORT SYSTEM?
By support system , I mean a Group of like minded people who are walking the same road as you and are facing the similar challenges as you. But, someone out of them will be having the answer to your questions and you must be having answers to some of their questions.
You might want to automate a tasks, but it is possible that someone else had already automated a part of it. He might share his set of code with you and you will get a head-start.
So, the point I am making is that learning a New programming language by someone who had never known coding in his life, can be a bit challenging and you will never want to walk a lonely road facing this challenge.
Now, where can we find such Groups? Existing Python groups have hundreds of Python experts , but they are very technical and are also at advanced level. Further, they usually learn python to earn a living or get a Job, which is very different than our purpose of learning it. Also, they do not have any Finance domain knowledge which makes it difficult to explain things.
So, a group named 'Efficient Corporates' made specifically for those Finance professionals who are interested in coding and automating their tasks.
You can freely post any of your queries, your background (CA In practice/CA In Job/ Articleship) and level of python knowledge you have (fresher/basic, working level) and which tasks you wish to automate. The more you interact, the more benefit you can get out of it.
The group can be found in 'LinkedIn', 'Quora' and 'Facebook', with the Named 'Efficient Corporates'. Do join the Group now and post which tasks you wish to automate. To get some idea of tasks of finance which have been automated, you may like to watch some video posted onto the YouTube Channel 'Efficient Corporates'
Also, if there is some particular tasks which you wish to automate and want a specific video on how the same can be done, do write me at email@example.com and I may post a video on my Youtube Channel "Efficient Corporates" as well.
So, Happy Learning and Happy Sharing!!
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