When movies like Blade Runner, Terminator, and Wall-E were released, maybe you imagined a similar future teeming with bioengineered bodies and lovable robots. When watching such films, however, it likely never occurred to you how such technological advances may impact people's professions, specifically those in accounting.  

Today, however, finance professionals have been struck with a new reality as technology progresses. In a recent Michael Page survey 43% of respondents believe that artificial intelligence (AI), particularly, will impact their long-term career plans, making its impact unavoidable.

What do accountants do?

First, let’s define what an accountant does. They receive data and process it (usually) into a computer system. The system then generates additional data and instructions, which may involve paying or issuing an invoice, for example. Finally, the rest of the data is fed into a variety of financial and management reports to inform decisions.  

While this is a simplified explanation of an accountant’s role, such an overview provides a general understanding of their responsibilities. Given the often-tedious nature of their tasks, finance and company leaders have considered the question: how can we do all this quicker, more accurately, with more insight and at a lower cost?

So, what is AI?

AI is an area of computer science focused on developing intelligent machines that work and react like humans. The rise of automation within finance departments has been revolutionary but has always been dependent on the fixed instructions humans originally programmed into the tool. Today, however, AI is rapidly growing with two new fundamental factors—learning and problem-solving.  

The effects of AI on the role of an accountant

Over the last twenty years, technology has advanced at such a pace that many roles in the accounting department have disappeared due to AI and automation, which now have the capability to perform many of an accountant’s tasks with little or no human involvement.  

For example, with AI, reports can be generated and sent to the appropriate people with automated follow-up and escalation if required. The process is almost seamless and error-free. In cases where there are mistakes, the system “learns” to avoid repeating them.  

Some organizations have recognized the benefits of AI and incorporated it into their operations. Some large firms have started testing drones that use AI and image recognition to analyze and relay information to a head office. Additionally, a recent Michael Page survey found that 27% of accounting and finance respondents use AI in their current role.  

However, some firms are more resistant to advanced technology. A failure to adapt reveals a staggering reality: the challenge of economic survival is to not only accept these changes but to capitalize on them or risk falling behind–even those in accounting.

This realization is highlighted in the 2016 report, “The Future of Jobs,” which heralds the Fourth Industrial Revolution, predicting a substantial change for white-collar workers as such technological advances become commonplace. Many of the most in-demand jobs today did not exist ten years ago, and the report predicts that 65% of children currently entering elementary school will be working in roles that don’t exist today!

Looking forward: embracing AI

AI in accounting will continue to persist, so a willingness to adapt is crucial; fortunately, 98% of accounting and finance professionals want to learn more about AI—and for good reason. Despite its limited capabilities and lack of intuition, AI's ability to automate tasks is its greatest strength, securing its permanent place in the industry.  

Rather than completely replacing accounting and finance jobs, most people believe that embracing AI will enhance their roles and, therefore, allow accountants to evolve into a more strategic, invaluable position.  This sentiment is felt throughout the industry, as 80% of professionals believe that AI will help improve overall efficiency and productivity and 71% believe it will be used for automation of repetitive tasks.

This shift indicates the demand for accountants in two distinct areas.  

The first is focused on process—establishing the right procedures and workflows for the system to give a consistently accurate output.  

The second role accountants will assume is that of partnering positions, helping businesses take an abundance of data and translate it into meaningful commercial insight.

To conclude, while AI continues to advance, the need for talented finance professionals to review output, correct mistakes, and make authoritative, analytical decisions is not going anywhere. However, future accountants will need to be systems-literate, commercially savvy, and, most importantly, adaptable to succeed. Likewise, employers will need to support their finance teams in this transition by providing useful programs and resources, knowing that the most-likely winners will be those best able to analyze and commercialize the overload of data.

At Michael Page, our consultants have the knowledge and skills to meet your finance recruitment needs even in the changing landscape. Learn more about our accounting and finance expertise or get in touch with our experts to start a conversation.  

View Our Latest Talent Trends Report

Uncover key insights from the world's largest talent survey.

Download Your Copy Today

Get in touch

Fill out our form and we will call you back to discuss your recruitment needs.

IMPORTANT: By submitting your email address and any other personal information to this website, you consent to such information being collected, held, used and disclosed in accordance with our PRIVACY POLICY and our website TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

Looking to Reduce Employee Turnover?

Key Insights to Reduce Turnover and Improve Hiring Strategies in 2023.

Don't Miss Out