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“We work with start-ups and innovators in the market, and we focus on our own innovation. Our approach is outside-in and inside-out.”

Reynold Liu, Head of Technology and Innovation and Head of Management Consulting at KPMG China talks to us about the power of co-creation in driving technology and innovation.

Tell us more about your dual roles at KPMG.

Reynold Liu: I’ve just celebrated my 26th work anniversary at KPMG China. In fact, I also did my internship at KPMG back in 1997. In a sense, my two roles tell the story of KPMG’s approach to business transformation. On the one hand, you need to be able to guide and advise clients on the best way to transform. To do that, we draw on KPMG’s deep industry knowledge and expertise. On the other hand, transformation requires technology, and this is a key strength at KPMG China. We help clients implement transformation using technology, including digital assets and innovations that have been developed by our own technologists.

“We’ve established a one tech framework in which all KPMG China’s technology and consulting resources are grouped together, much like a central kitchen model. Centralization helps us achieve our vision.”

Reynold Liu
Simren (Gill) Bains

Clients may know that they need to transform, and indeed may want to, but would you say that that makes them change-ready?

Reynold Liu: Many clients come to us with a good understanding of their pain points. They know they are losing efficiency, for example, or that they’re not operating with enough agility or using data effectively. But clients may not be fully aware of how difficult change is, especially if they think that the transformation is limited to technology improvements.

KPMG takes a business-first approach to technology transformation. So, instead of focussing on just the system and technology transformation, KPMG professionals look at the wider business and bring deep expertise, and leading practice change management. Clients can quickly see – and appreciate – the value of addressing the people part of digital transformation. Technology is used by people, so you must help people manage change; that way, technology has a higher adoption rate. I think true transformation is realized by uniting the power of people, technology, and innovation.

There is an increasing emphasis on the power of alliances in business. Is that true of KPMG in China?

Reynold Liu: I would say that KPMG China has long been a pioneer of the alliance-based approach to technology solution design. Ten years ago, we were already developing relationships with technology companies and internet providers because we recognized that we needed to work together to deliver results to clients. So, today, we have a thriving network of alliance partners – the biggest players in the Chinese market, as well as smaller, up-and-coming players… because who knows? Five or 10 years from now, these companies may be the new tech players in the global market. We strive to bring to all clients our best consulting services, powered by local technology solutions.

Tell us more about innovation at KPMG China.

Reynold Liu: Innovation is a driving force in our business. KPMG Lighthouse is our center of excellence for data-driven technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. Beyond this, KPMG China has established three digital innovation centers: one in Shanghai, a second near Hong Kong (SAR), a third in Dalian in northern China. Plus, we plan to establish a fourth center in western China soon. The purpose of these centers is to create our own digital assets and innovations. Innovation is managed via a four-tier structure of development that includes a centralized data layer. To date, we’ve produced more than 30 digital solutions, some of which have been co-created with alliance partners.

What characterizes innovation at KPMG China is how we organize and operationalize it. Every project has a sponsor, and all projects are managed by a central steering committee. Innovation is open to everyone and our ‘one tech’ framework enables employees to demo tech solutions, interact with features and share ideas. Access to our demo center is geared for mobile interactivity, so we receive feedback and input on technology solutions in real time. Not only does this accelerate speed to value, but it also drives a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Can you tell us about one of the technology solutions?

Reynold Liu: Originally directed for use by KPMG China’s audit business, we developed an AI solution that can ‘read’ documents and provide preliminary results to decision makers. Previously, in the hands of people, this process could involve up to 10,000 hours of work, so the efficiencies provided by the new digital tool, in terms of time and effort savings, are sizeable. Plus, the tool is easily adaptable for other applications. That’s what I love about innovation; it’s transferable and it keeps unfolding.

“That’s what I love about innovation; it’s transferable and keeps unfolding.”