Is AI coming for your job? For Accountants, Yes

Is AI coming for your job For Accountants, Yes.

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” ― Jack Kerouac

Well, no offense to Kerouac but if you’ve been in the accounting business since the last few years, the mantra of the moment is adaptation – to automation; digitisation; MTD. But is adaptation really the key to survive in these times?

There might be some truth in what Kerouac said after all. Unlike the trend to adapt, accountants must learn to prepare. At the moment, accountants need to look into the distant future of accounting and where they must place themselves, instead of merely giving into the trend of adapting.

With automation and AI technology increasingly able to perform transactional and record-keeping tasks, entry-level tasks might become more vulnerable that higher-level roles. The need of the hour is to focus on more complex skills and creating value in human interaction.

It's funny to think how technology is already taking care of what human accountants are best known for – taxes. Until recently, accounting technology was marketed as a tool to ease the job for accountants but not re-think their skillset or business practice.

But maybe it is time.

In a recent WSJ piece, Tom Davenport, a Deloitte Analytics advisor talks about how high-end knowledge workers can never fall prey to automation encroaching on jobs. He talks about a few pointers on what to watch out for but ends up giving out a broad picture of how to map new avenues in this constantly evolving accounting landscape. Some of these are:

1. A Good Piece of Advice never goes out of fashion

It’s time for accountants to switch to being business strategists and advisers.

It is the predictable, mundane tasks that in threat. With bookkeeping and taxes already off the charts, the routine cognitive tasks will no longer be something to depend on. However, intangibles like human interaction and knowledge from experience in accounting is something that cannot be replaced by technology. A lot of businesses are constantly looking for expert guidance and a holistic insight of the industry in order to chart their next moves and accountants must be on the lookout for a client base in need with those services.

Wendy Rowe, Product Director at Wolters Kluwers believes that the next generation of accountants will evolve as functioning advisors. Rowe will also be talking about strategies to become the new age accountant at Accountex 2019.

2:00 pm - 2:45 pm, ‘How To’ Theatre

Evolution of the Accountant: Beyond Compliance – Wendy Rowe

2. Be Sceptical and Monitor Everything

Adaptation is important to survival but one must be able to monitor new developments and scrutinise the trends. After all, analysis is what we’re best at. As Davenport comments, a lot of professions including journalism are going through a transformation in terms of some skills getting more value over the others. With automation – numerical, financial or even political reporting could be at risk since those contain empirical data which can be easily translated by tech. However, investigative or human interest reporting is relatively safe and cannot be replaced by AI tools.

Similarly, in accounting, skills that value on human interaction, advisory and consultation gained from expertise and not just data will be of immense value in the forthcoming decades.

3. With great technology comes a great amount of free time

Technology yields to more time and time is all we need to learn.

A lot of accounting firms are building up on this advantage to prepare for complex-skilled workforce by developing their lower to middle-skilled workers into knowledge workers.

And that’s what we all need to do. Accountants must be ready to train themselves to meet with the needs of future avenues in the industry. We’ve all witnessed a spike in the demand of auditing and compliance professionals since the advent of data security issues. A lot like that, with new technology, new opportunities pop up. In fact, as Davenport suggests machine Learning will transform the accounting service model and disciplines like forensic accounting; and mergers and acquisitions accounting may also appear.

With tech freeing up more time, accountancy practices must work toward improvising their service model to what the need of the hour is.

Sometimes, it’s just easy to go with the flow. But if there is any truth to what Kerouac has said then one must step out of the flock and look at where we are all heading. And right now, it looks as if it may as well end up being a question of reskilling, rather than losing your accounting job to AI.

Sam Allert, CEO, Reckon, will be bringing some interesting stories on how some of Australia leading bookkeepers and advisory firms are doing in the face of increasing automation, at Accountex 2019.

If you are looking forward to coming out to Accountex on May 1-2; then this talk is a must-watch!

10:15 am - 10:45 am, Accounting in Business Theatre

Beyond Automation: Business Growth Lesson from Down Under – Sam Allert

A lot like Allert, our experts at QXAS wouldn’t shy away from pulling any punches either.

Being veterans of the accounting industry, the Robinson brothers at QXAS would be happy to discuss their unique accounting solution to upscaling workers for the complex-skilled positions – what we really need for the automation age.

Meet us at Stand 1273.