SEC enlists tech for probes

SEC enlists tech for probes

AI, big data speed up fraud detection

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics to investigate false accounting information next year, following the implementation of robotic process automation (RPA) technology to detect fraudulent accounting records.

SEC assistant secretary-general Thawatchai Kiatkwankul said the commission has adopted RPA technology since mid-2019 to help scrutinise auditor's reports and identify conditional company financial statements on behalf of the SEC staff, with an aim to increase the efficiency of accounting supervision.

This is in line with the SEC's policy and operational direction driving the organisation towards digitalisation.

He said RPA is a simple robot software that can automate the task previously performed by the SEC staff on a predetermined basis.

RPA will start by downloading financial statements of a listed company and open the auditor's report to collect auditor's opinions and alert the SEC when it detects any irregularities, enabling the commission to accurately and timely identify potentially unusual financial activities.

The SEC staff normally require more than 500 hours of reading to investigate irregularities in financial statements and auditor's reports of more than 700 listed companies.

Compared with over 500 hours of human work, RPA shortens the work hours by 87.5% by taking only 64 hours a year to accomplish the task, although it will initially need some time to learn the keywords in the auditors' reports.

Instead of spending time reading such reports all by themselves, the staff can just skip the step and instantly conduct an in-depth investigation to look into the irregularities detected by RPA.

The adoption of RPA technology has simultaneously boosted the efficiency of financial statement investigation and confidence in the capital market, as well as helped attract a new generation of staff to accounting supervision, said Mr Thawatchai.

"Although RPA can meet the requirements of accounting operations to some extent, as technological development never stops, the SEC is constantly looking for new technologies such as AI to help conduct financial statement investigation," he said.

Mr Thawatchai said the SEC is in the process of adopting AI and big data analytics to analyse and detect irregular financial statements, inappropriate transactions and fraud.

The commission hopes to see success and plans to implement the technologies next year.

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