Steve Hill, Global Head of Innovation at KPMG


Steve Hill, Global Head of Innovation at KPMG, delivers a nuanced message to the several thousand aspiring young accountants that he meets on campuses across America each year. His most recent audience — a group of Boler College faculty and students — heard Hill’s forecast for a changing profession during a late September presentation.

Hill has carefully tracked a decade-long shift in accounting, as cloud-based services, machine learning and big data changed the work of its young accountants, the nature of risk management and the client-firm relationship.

As automation expands and matures, Hill says, young professionals will be challenged to make higher-level judgements and correlations. “We’re not asking auditors to come in as data scientists, but we are asking if you have the ability to apply data-driven insights and make correlations.”

Hill uses the example of a bank’s loan portfolio as it relates to various environmental threats. “What questions might you begin to ask about factors such as water quality or climate risk? Can you bring systems-level, non-linear thinking to a wider range of risk factors?”

Lateral thinking, like that found in core liberal arts courses, builds the kind of mental muscle that will be required of future accountants. “Math or literature or writing — they all teach you how to think,” says Hill, “You’ll need them all to succeed — to collect insights and to deliver a richer presentation of the facts to senior management and clients.”