The financial industry has faced sweeping changes many times in its past, from the advent of computing technologies to increased regulatory scrutiny. Nothing, however, has ever stood to shake up the industry quite like artificial intelligence.
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence have left many industry analyst predicting dire future scenarios where human accountants have been supplanted by robots and software. Just how accurate are these predictions, and what exactly does the Age of AI mean for CPAs?
More and more accountants are struggling to understand what the future may hold for them. Luckily, they need not enter the world of tomorrow unprepared and uneducated on what the future may bring.
Accountants hoping to survive and thrive in the age of artificial intelligence must begin by understanding forthcoming technologies. Learning to future-proof your career won’t be easy, but by taking the right steps, a CPA can learn to exploit automation and big data analytics, rather than fear them.
The first thing an accountant must come to terms with is the awesome potential of machine automation. Already, a plethora of accounting firms employ centralized systems which can crunch numbers more efficiently than any human could ever hope to. As innovators continue to make serious gains in the development of AI, these robots will only become more productive.
Yet automation’s oncoming shakeup of the accounting industry doesn’t necessarily spell out its doom. Just look at healtchare where automation an AI has been such boon. It has paved the way for new diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins. By automating repetitive, simplistic task, CPA firms stand to seriously cut cost and free up their human capital to focus on more complicated issues. Accountants of tomorrow won’t be tasked with collecting data, but rather interpreting it to make more informed decisions.
Deloit’s 2015 report on robotics list increasing automation as the second most important strategic priority for firms. While robots will come to replace humans in completing easily programmable, rules-based task, they will nonetheless struggle to keep up with human creativity. Accountants will then need to think outside the box, and work more closely with their clients in forming business strategies, should they wish to remain relevant.
Preparing for the Future
In order to avoid being replaced by a software, Accountants must pivot away from the business of crunching data and instead focus on using it to empower their critical thinking and business decision making skills. To try and outpace the machines will be useless; CPAs should instead empower themselves by using these machines to market themselves as innovators to their clients.
Accountants must, more so than ever before, find their niche and excel in it. Automation won’t focus on specific task, but rather spend its energy on expanding into low-skilled sectors. Expert accountants who build close relationships with their clients, and serve as more than human-calculators, are those who will make themselves irreplaceable.
As CEOs turn to automation to drive down cost, the first task they’ll seek to automate are those which are the most mundane. Bank reconciliation, Accountants Payable work, and expense management will soon be completed by computers, freeing their human workers to focus on more complex issues.
By intensely studying and mastering machine learning and data analytics, CPAs can come to possess the knowledge of experts regarding the same machines that could replace them. Market yourself to your clients as someone who understands and has mastered the future, rather than someone who stands to be eliminated by it.
CPAs must take their future into their own hands, rather than waiting for it to be foisted upon them by robots. Defining yourself as an innovative thinker who understands more than mere numbers is the way to start marketing yourself as an accountant of the future. Human interaction is, and always will be, invaluable; mastering it is thus a safe way to ensure you won’t be replaced by a piece of software.
Investors are already smitten with employees who utilize robots to become more efficient. Two thirds of these wealthy investors claimed they preferred “hybrid” organizations which use the best of both worlds. By taking the necessary steps now to become a master of AI, you can cater to this elite demographic in the future.
Artificial intelligence won’t kill off accountants, but rather revolutionize how they work. By focusing on their niche, educating themselves on forthcoming technologies, and building closer human relationships, a savvy accountant can remain relevant far into the unknown future.
Cost accountant with major focus in SAP/General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). Also, main functional inspector for accounting/finance audits for internal reviews as well as the Statement of Budgetary Resources audit initiative.