June 4, 2020
AI is continuing the adapt and improve at an incredibly fast speed. Many people have argued that AI is going to be the next industrial revolution. It is a pretty common thought that most people in manual jobs which involve a lot of automation via IT, as to whether their job may even exist in 10 to 20 years time.
Will Accounting as a career path be replaced by AI or Robots? Probably not, for now.
During my time at my Big 4 firm, they were focussing quite heavily on implementing automated aspects into our daily work flow. At no point did I think it would replace everything I do. There is too much of a human interaction factor when it comes to being an Accountant.
Despite this, I do feel as though the demand for new graduate joiners at large accounting firms will reduce in the future. We will be able to do the work of a current team of 20, with 5 people and effective automation.
It cannot be denied that artificial intelligence has the potential to take a lot of the mundane aspects out of certain Accounting roles. I can imagine a career in Audit would be completely revolutionised by more automation. There is a huge amount of repetitive tasks involved with Audit, and a robot could vastly improve this.
When I worked in Audit, I would spend hours manually checking numbers, opening PDF bank statements, manually marking out statements to confirm they were correct. It is incredibly dull and sucks the brain power out of you. With automation, this would make it a thing of the past.
The Downside of AI in Accounting
The problem arises in that automation, AI/Robots can replace a lot of man-power. I would expect someone like PwC who may hire hundreds of new associates each year into their key offices will greatly reduce these numbers in the future. You don’t need low paid entry-level staff to do the boring work if the automated systems can do it for even less of a cost.
Realistically the only people being hired will be those which are deemed to be future managers. Teams will consist of partners and managers eventually, with the majority of the key work being completed by AI systems.
I think over time, in order to be a successful accountant, you will have to change and adapt. The conventional path of getting a degree, then doing your CA exams and then landing your dream job will likely not exist anymore.
I think we will go more into a phase of being babysitters for automated systems, which means as Accountants we need to know how these Automated systems work in order to resolve any issues. The most successful of Accountants will be those who are both incredibly well versed in the financial knowledge of an Accountant, but also a part-time software engineer.
The metaphor I would use to compare it is….think about pilots. Rewind 30+ years and pilots would manually fly planes for 100% of the journey. These days, the plane sits on autopilot the majority of the flight, and the pilot will take over if any issues arise. I think this is how a role as an Accountant will be in the future.
Will AI Replace Accountants? Will They Cause You to Lose Your Job?
Probably not, at least not in the near future. AI is still very young, and not as reliable or magical as it is made out to be in movies. We’re still a long time away from being in a scenario of creating AI Robots with full personalities able to run whole Audits by themselves.
It is pretty evident that for the time being, AI cannot replace a human Accountant, especially not a highly competent one. The ‘human touch’ aspect of Accounting will still require human interaction. Communicating with a client, and managing and understanding the plan of the Accounting job.
I think the best way to future-proof your Accounting job is to gain a better understanding of Automation, AI and coding. This will allow you to be in the best position possible when the time comes around that these aspects are being implemented into your place of work. You don’t want to be in a position where your employer is implementing an automated AI system, and you end up being let go as you’re completely incapable of learning how to use it.
I may look to writing some articles about using coding and Python in the near future. I believe a new ‘trend’ in coding comes around every 10 years or so. Currently it is fashionable to use Python. However, 10+ years ago it was Java. The best way to stay on top of this, and to future-proof your accounting job is to stay on top of the curve when it comes to coding and programming. This way, when any change happens, you can be ready and prepared.
The Benefits of AI in Accounting
Artificial Intelligence will create the potential to be more efficient with the resources we have. I have already mentioned how it will potential replace the requirement for more low-level accounting staff.
By automating a lot of the repetitive tasks, accountants will be able to devote more time to analyse, interpret and understand information and data. I think Accountants will lean towards being partial business consultants in the future.
With the further understanding of the financials behind a business, we will be able to make recommendations of change and improvement for businesses.
According to Sage’s “Practice of Now” report, 58% of Accountants were excited by the benefits that Artificial Intelligence could provide to the Accounting Career path.
I believe audits will no longer be an annual thing. With increased automation, we will see a continuous audit which runs constantly through the financial year. This will improve the accuracy of financial information in the world. In turn, this will have an increase benefit of knowledge for shareholders and investors. This will likely have a knock-on effect for the stock market. With more transparent information coming from companies, we’re likely to see more stability in share prices, and less manipulation and price scalping. This has the potential to impact hedge funds, and day-traders.
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