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who need it, when they need it and for it to
be accessed as appropriate from any de-
vice,” adds Clarke, who says his company has
signed up more than 1,500 clients in China.
Another fast-moving company is Xero in
New Zealand, which has attracted invest-
ment from Peter Thiel, a German-American
financier who founded PayPal, the online fi-
nance company, and who was an early back-
er of the Facebook social network.
Xero stresses the user-friendliness of its
cloud-based software compared with that
of competitors and offers a range of “single-
click” report templates, such as for profit and
loss, balance sheet, management reports
and taxes for a range of jurisdictions.
Rod Drury, a cofounder of Xero, based
in Havelock North, New Zealand, says the
accounting profession is “fundamentally
retooling” itself to adapt to technological
change. Modern software, he says, has cre-
ated a continuous relationship between ac-
countants and their clients, instead of a once-
a-year interaction based on the tax year.
Another growing brand is Auditflow, a
cloud-based auditing software developer in
Southport, Australia, that plans to launch in
Hong Kong this year.
Large accounting firms tend to develop
their own auditing software. PwC, for ex-
ample, uses its proprietary Aura suite devel-
oped in the U.S. Auditflow offers jurisdic-
tion-specific auditing software to smaller
firms that is updated online to account for
any changes in regulations.
“Our software assists auditors to per-
form fully compliant engagements for their
clients in a timely and cost effective man-
ner, and provides practice workflow man-
agement of the assignments and staff,” says
cofounder Rich Neal.
The lagging innovation in the Asia-
Pacific region hasn’t stopped technology
consultants setting up shop in Hong Kong.
Lisa Gotlieb, a New Zealand Institute of
Chartered Accountants member, moved to
Hong Kong to establish Lisa Gotlieb Enter-
prises, which contracts accounting ser v ices
to small businesses in the city.
Her ser v ices include setting up software,
including Xero, and training for small busi-
ness clients, as well as improving office
procedures such as simplifying paper flow,
minimizing waste and streamlining access
“ Technology has allowed information to
be shared easily across different business lo-
cations, as well as allowing easily traceable
links between internal documents, creat-
ing structure and a clear picture and story
of what the accountants are telling us about
the business,” Gotlieb says.
Half century of computing
It is nearly 50 years since accounting first
embraced the computer age. “Accounting
was first automated to a significant degree
when IBM introduced the System/360 in
April 1964,” says Chris Westland, an A meri-
can Institute of CPAs member and a former
visiting scholar at Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology.
This was the first accounting-specific
computer and had been among the most ex-
pensive products ever developed by the com-
pany up to that time, says Westland, now
professor of information and decision sci-
ences at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
The immediate effects of this computer-
ization were dramatic. Within a decade, ac-
counting departments at Fortune 500 com-
panies in the U.S. were staffed at only about
a tenth of the levels they had been in 1964.
The next era of accounting technology
began with the commercial release of DOS-
based computers in 1981, followed by the
introduction of the ground-breaking Lotus
1-2 -3 spreadsheet software two years later
and the first Windows operating system in
1985. The same year Microsoft wrote the
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