While AI is already being used to enhance many aspects of accounting, there are still important ways in which accountants can add value.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been subject to a great deal of both hype and scepticism throughout its history.
It’s a technology that sparks most people’s imagination – or fear – by calling to mind futuristic, sci-fi concepts.
In the accounting industry, an ongoing debate surrounds AI’s ability to carry out accounting tasks and maybe even replace the role of accountants altogether.
But while AI will be used, and in many cases is already being used, to enhance many aspects of accounting, there are still important ways in which accountants can add value.
The future is already here
AI is already being used in accountancy – most commonly by the largest firms, but also by smaller firms adopting current technology.
Many accounting platforms currently offer AI-supported features for some of the more routine tasks involved in the profession, such as recording data on transactions or expenses, categorising that information or reconciling it across different sources.
Technologies like optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning are able to carry out these tasks by ‘learning’ from data they’ve been exposed to before.
AI is also well-suited to analysing large volumes of data to identify broad patterns, which means it can be used to support the more strategic side of an accountant’s work – reporting on financial performance and forecasting future changes. Accountants can then interpret the data reported by the AI, and use its findings to inform their clients’ business decisions.
In audit, this ability to pick up on patterns is also useful, as AI can be used to identify outliers that need further investigation by the auditor. The same goes for anti-money laundering (AML) checks, as software can highlight unexpected data.
In both cases, an expert still needs to interpret the data – after all, not all anomalies are cases of fraud, and unusual figures could have a perfectly acceptable explanation. But by saving the accountant time trawling through vast quantities of financial data, AI allows for a more efficient process and the opportunity to dig into the details where it matters.
What’s next for AI and accountancy?
As this technology becomes more sophisticated and accessible over time, its capabilities within the field of accountancy are only going to become wider-ranging.
And while we don’t believe AI will completely override the need for accountants, it is true that their roles will need to change.
This is a challenge for the profession as a whole: as more traditional accounting tasks are automated, what does the accountant of the future look like?
We see the role of accountants in the future being one of strategic importance, using technology to enhance their service, keep their clients compliant, and translate complex ideas into practical solutions.
The personal relationship you can build with a client can’t be replaced by a computer. And when it comes to finding nuance in the data and understanding it in the context of someone’s personal and business goals, humans are still best suited to the task.
But this will only be possible for firms that are open to change, and that stay up to date on the technology available to them, using it to their advantage so they can develop their own offering.
At Capium, we stay ahead of the latest developments in accounting technology so you don’t have to. With our connected suite of accounting software, you’ll have everything you need to run a future-proof practice.