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The integration of AI and automation is not just a trend but a critical evolution in the accounting profession, paving the way for a more innovative and client-focused future.

Embracing digitalisation and AI-powered automation

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the role of accountants is undergoing a profound transformation. With the advent of digitalisation and AI-powered automation, the traditional methods of accounting are being revolutionised, presenting both challenges and opportunities for professionals in the field.

Some, though, see the breakneck speed of AI and automation as something of a Pandora’s box, insomuch as, once released, the power and danger can never be put back. While there are increasing reports on the potential dangers of AI, from automation-spurred job losses to fake news and privacy violations, we know that it is here to stay. So harnessing the potential and managing the risks is vital.

Less paper, more power

For accountants, that potential is staggering. These technological advancements bring myriad benefits to the profession.

‘It’s important accountants leverage technological advancements to not only improve their own efficiency and accuracy, but also that of their clients,’ says Andy Fuller, outsourced business services senior manager at McBrides Chartered Accountants in the UK.

‘By using digital tools and the artificial intelligence built in, manual tasks are done at a fraction of the speed and with less human error, freeing up the accountant to help their client with value added services such as budgeting, cash flow management and tax planning. In turn, the client can focus on running their business and servicing more work.

‘Assisting clients in this way builds a better, more productive relationship for both the accountant and the client. Those firms choosing to ignore the value of these advances risk becoming outdated and losing business to their competitors.’

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The benefits of AI powered automation include:

  • Enhanced efficiency and accuracy: AI-powered automation streamlines repetitive tasks such as data entry, reconciliation and financial reporting, significantly reducing the risk of human error. By using digital tools, accountants can devote more time to strategic analysis and decision making, ultimately improving the accuracy and reliability of financial information.
  • Cost savings: Digitalisation and automation enable accountants to optimise resource allocation and minimise manual intervention, leading to cost savings for both firms and clients. With fewer resources dedicated to routine tasks, accounting firms can redirect their efforts towards value-added services, thereby enhancing their competitiveness in the market.
  • Real-time insights: By harnessing the power of AI algorithms, accountants can gain access to real-time financial data and insights, enabling them to make timely and informed decisions. This enhanced visibility into financial performance empowers businesses to identify trends, anticipate risks and capitalise on opportunities more effectively.
  • Improved compliance and risk management: Digital tools and AI algorithms can help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and mitigate the risk of fraud or non-compliance. By automating compliance checks and implementing robust internal controls, accountants can enhance the integrity and transparency of financial reporting, fostering trust among stakeholders.
  • Empowered decision-making: Digitalisation and AI automation enable accountants to analyse vast amounts of data quickly and accurately, providing valuable insights that can inform strategic decision-making. Whether it’s identifying cost-saving opportunities, optimising resource allocation, or forecasting future trends, these technological advancements empower accountants to drive business growth and innovation.
  • Client engagement and satisfaction: AI-driven automation allows accountants to deliver higher quality services to their clients, thereby enhancing client satisfaction and loyalty. By leveraging advanced analytics and reporting tools, accountants can provide clients with actionable insights and personalised recommendations, adding tangible value to their businesses.
  • Professional development: This technology also presents an opportunity for accountants to upskill and expand their professional horizons. By acquiring proficiency in digital tools and technologies, you can future-proof your career and remain relevant in an increasingly tech-driven industry.

Digitalisation and AI-powered automation of accounting processes are not merely trends, but imperatives for the profession. By embracing these technological advancements, accountants can unlock many benefits and, as the pace of technological innovation accelerates, the ability to adapt and leverage digital tools will be essential for accountants to thrive in the digital age.

More information

For more on AI – what it is, how it will help you and how it will change the world of work – check out our ‘Focus on: AI’ timeline.

This article was first published in Student Accountant in May 2024 | Get the SA app now

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