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Will A.I change the role of accountants?

A man analysing data

If you’re studying or working in accounting, you’ve no doubt heard predictions that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could change the face of the accounting profession.

Naysayers seem to take great pleasure in depicting future scenarios where human accountants have been replaced by machines and software. And trainee accountants could be forgiven for asking the question: Will I have a job in 10 years’ time?

But while AI will undoubtedly affect the finance industry – just as it will impact most other industries – you can prepare for the new digital landscape.

How to future-proof your accountancy career

The key is to keep pace with forthcoming technologies. You can help to future-proof your career by broadening your knowledge base. If you invest in your own development, you can equip yourself with the skills to work alongside AI, rather than fear it.

Kaplan’s range of accounting courses offer you the chance to add digital knowhow to your traditional accountancy skills. The key is not to skip the ‘nuts and bolts’ of accountancy, but to also learn how to work with new software, to interpret data, and to provide more meaningful insights to your presentations and reports.

With the right qualifications, you’ll be in a better position to safeguard your current position and take advantage of future opportunities.

So how will AI affect different accountancy roles? And what skills do accountants need to survive – and thrive?

AI and Auditors

Not so long ago, human and machine collaboration on an audit meant an accountant using a calculator. Now, AI can be used to carry out the time consuming, lower judgment, repeatable elements of the audit. Machines can zip through the data extraction that used to take weeks.

But while AI will make quick work of high volumes of financial information, only the human auditor can bring their creativity and experience to interpreting that data. Businesses need qualified audit professionals to provide considered, constructive reports for their stakeholders.

And it’s the human element that will allow firms to take advantage of machine learning, as these new insights can be fed back to the machines, meaning the AI-led analysis will be even stronger next time.

However, many accountants feel they currently lack the required data knowledge and need to develop their data analytics skills if they’re to perform their role effectively in the next few years.

Fortunately, accounting courses have evolved to help fill this skills gap. The ACCA, AAT and CIMA have all embedded digital learning in their courses. In fact, the AAT will be updating its Q2022 syllabus to put a greater emphasis on technology. The Level 3 qualification, for instance, will include block chain, AI machine learning, data analytics, cloud accounting and real-time data.

As an auditor, to succeed in the age of AI you don’t need to be a data scientist, but you should be comfortable with data and be able to analyse it.

AI and Management Accountants

AI and cloud computing software reduces the time spent on day-to-day finance tasks, which allows accountants to switch their focus from compliance to advisory. As a result, accountants are increasingly taking on a business partner role.

Findings by CIMA reflect that accountants will need tech knowledge and a digital mindset to affect and influence their own decisions, actions and behaviours, and those of their colleagues within the wider organisation.

CIMA Operational, the first level of the CIMA Professional qualification, includes sessions on data usage, as well as a deep dive into the technology landscape and its impact on organisations and the finance function.

It’s this knowledge that will help give management accountants the confidence to provide a more comprehensive business advisory service.

Adding business value

And it’s not just chartered and management accountants who are moving towards an advisory role. The industry is seeing this trend across a range of accounting functions. From bookkeeping and tax compliance to month-end work, automation and AI gives accountants more time to add value through advisory work.

The ability to add context to figures, and to raise and resolve issues, is a useful asset. The ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business (Level 4) reflects this key strand of accountancy. It’s Business and Technology element shines a light on how businesses are structured and how the role of accounting helps with the efficient management and improvement of a company, its people, and its systems.

New skills for the AI age

The best way to prepare for the advance of AI in accountancy is to arm yourself with a digital-ready skillset. Market yourself to your clients and employees as someone who has mastered the new technology, rather than someone who stands to be eclipsed by it.

You can do this at the start of your accountancy career – the AAT Level 2 AQ2022, for instance, will test your knowledge of digital bookkeeping systems when it launches next year.

And then continue to adapt by adding the extra levels of competence you need to be effective in your role as an accountant today… and tomorrow.

Ready to gain the qualifications to help future-proof your accountancy career?

Kaplan can support you with the course that’s right for you.