Deputy Editor AccountingWEB
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CPAs Should Shift to Niche Services as Automation Takes Over

Oct 25th 2017
Deputy Editor AccountingWEB
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marc staut
Photo by Dominic Diongson

Accountants should focus on providing niche areas of service such as business valuation and retirement planning and move away from tasks including bookkeeping and financial reporting because automation and technological advances will take over much of their work, according to a consultant.

Marc Staut, principal and consultant at Boomer Consulting, Inc., said that progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning will take over many of the accounting profession’s mundane work. He cited statistics from NPR’s Planet Money in which tax preparers, bookkeepers, accountants and auditors are among the top professions whose work will be taken over by automation.

Right now, automation is related to decision making, in which decisions are being made for us, Staut said on Tuesday at CCH Connections: User Conference 2017, in his session The Rise of the Robo-Accountants.

For example, clients of UBS can now ask for advice by calling a virtual assistant named Alexa and the chief investment office has recorded questions. Alexa can accept inquiries and dispense advice. Other companies are already implementing such robo-advisors, Staut said, and accountants should prepare for this automation shift.

Staut identified the services of a CPA through what Boomer terms “The Service Value Chain,” and CPAs should move up along that chain. One part of that matrix can be divided into four sections, from lowest to highest, that classifies the accountant's tasks and functions:

  1. transactional
  2. compliance
  3. performance
  4. strategic

Transactional is the lowest level and covers bookkeeping, payroll and bill payment.

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