Rise of the robots is the advent of accounting
- More than half (57%) of young finance professionals believe that technology will replace entry level roles in the profession
- The majority (84%) believe this will allow them to focus on higher value-added activity
In a speech to Liverpool University last night, Bank of England chief Mark Carney estimated that up to 15 million of the current jobs in Britain could be automated over time, with whole professions—including accounting—eliminated.
John Williams, head of ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) UK, responds:
“Mr Carney is absolutely correct in noting the huge impact that automation will have on the accounting profession. However, I wholly disagree with the notion that the ‘rise of the robots’ signals the end of accounting. And if artificial intelligence did signal the end of accountants, it would also signal the end of central bankers!
“Robotic process automation refers to software that performs repetitive processes and interacts with multiple applications, all under the control of a human manager. It is a natural next-step in the evolution of finance transformation, but it is not capable of building relationships, or replacing all systems and staff.
“The accounting profession is facing a unique opportunity: digital is enabling the traditional finance function to shift up the value chain, from score keeper and caretaker to communicator and business partner. Transactional tasks are being outsourced, and cost effectively so, and opportunities have been freed up for professional accountants to become business partners.
“Accountants are at the front line of change, and our profession has a huge role to play in ensuring that we embrace technological changes, and use them to efficiently run Britain’s businesses. This is not a new situation: if you roll back the clock 25 years or so, Carney may have been predicting the end of accountants via the introduction of software packages like SAP and Oracle. But, as is evident today, the accountancy profession both survived and thrived.
“I am not saying that there will not be transitional issues, as the changing profession raises new talent dynamics and creates a possible career divide. Technicians in particular will have to expand their existing skillsets to adapt, and the profession may encounter succession challenges in the medium term.
“However, ACCA research shows that the next generation of accountants are aware and ready. According to our recent Generation Next survey of 18,000 finance professionals under the age of 36, more than half (57%) believe that technology will replace entry level roles in the profession, and the majority (84%) welcome this, saying that technology will enable them to focus on higher value-added activity.
“Technology is not a threat to our accountants: it’s an opportunity. The accountants of the future will be highly trained in digital and ethical skillsets, and they will need these to manage the automated entry-level, as they focus on creating broader, more strategic value for Britain’s businesses.”
The full Generation Next report is available here.
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Adele Gilbert, ACCA Newsroom
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Notes to Editors
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.
ACCA supports its 188,000 members and 480,000 students in 178 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 100 offices and centres and more than 7,110 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.
Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com