William Webster

written by

William Webster

Researcher, Avoncourt Partners GmbH

Culture Blog - Jun 14, 2019

AI transforms accountants into super-advisors

Thirty years ago, accountants and auditors were armed with seemingly superhuman powers: desktop software. As the internet developed, cloud software gave them more capabilities, and integrated solutions evolved. The role of the accountant became less transactional and more advisory. When the spreadsheet automated much of what CPAs did 30 years ago, the result was a massive demand for much higher-value financial analyses.  Now AI, the new technology, will strongly impact the structure and services of accounting firms and auditors.

Several top accounting fiirms in the US and UK are already exploring or implementing very specific applications for RPA, data analytics, AI and, to a lesser extent, blockchain.

Business team analyzing marketing, sales, financial metrics on analytics report

“Emerging artificial intelligence technologies will have a great impact on professional services, especially audit,”

said Sean Sinclair, a principal and chief operating officer of the US-based Baker Newman Noyes.

“We expect that these solutions will allow us to provide clients enhanced preventive controls and detective controls that can identify anomalies earlier.”

It will deeply impact the training and recruitment processes of firms. Though menial tasks have proven helpful for the formation of rigorous accounting, the fact that robotic automation can outperform accountants will force accountants to integrate AI into their analyses and will heighten the competition for stellar advisory services.

“Within the next few years we envision a change in the pyramid within organizations in our industry — the lower echelons of the pyramid will be in part reduced through automation, robotization and other such technologies, as well as through outsourcing,”

said Frank Vitale, chief marketing officer of New York-based Berdon.

“In other words, we anticipate that the commodity tasks will be most impacted by this evolution. This will impact the recruitment model as well as education and learning approaches in the industry.”

Warren Averett’s chief marketing officer and head of business development Todd Decker broke down their firm’s approach by type of technology:

“We are currently looking at vendor products that include components of artificial intelligence to create efficiencies on internal processes and boosting value-added insight for our clients,”

he said.

“Robotic process automation will affect our internal processes drastically. We are exploring our various data entry and repetitive tasks to determine whether a portion or an entire task can be automated using RPA.”

Automated outsourced accounting is one solution offered by the Israeli firm Sherlock Garden Ltd. It automates bookkeeping tasks, extracting data from account statements and balance sheets and placing it into tabular formats and spreadsheets, work currently done by interns and junior accountants. It will eventually monitor movements and provide sound accounting advice.

The race is on for newer and savvier integrated solutions. Firms that now begin integration, even at a soft level, of AI components, will find themselves with a significant competitive edge in short matter of time.