Will AI block the associate pipeline?

What effects could AI’s removal of ‘menial’ accounting tasks have on the accounting landscape?

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Morning all,

A nice gentle existential question to start the week. Recently I’ve seen a subtle shift in how artificial intelligence is being positioned in accounting. Rather than sweeping away all before it, it now seems to be a friendly ‘co-pilot’, removing some of the “menial” tasks in accounting, such as checking transactions on an audit.

If this is how it plays out, technology could remove a layer of associates and juniors as firms go in search of efficiencies. What effects could this have the accounting landscape as we know it today?

Do potential partners need to have served their time ticking boxes before ascending the ladder? In ten or 15 years’ time (provided Skynet hasn’t taken over) will this lead to a shortage of talent at higher levels? And will training have to adapt to suit?

Your thoughts, as always, are most welcome :-)

All the best, 

Tom

Replies (14)

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By Yellowman
29th Apr 2024 10:31

People said that automation would take over and there would be no more accountants. This was 10+years ago, still hasn't really happened.

I think AI tools will be used to enhance whats being done, 'co-pilot' seems about right.

Don't worry about menial tasks being removed, the audit regulators will always add more tick boxes!

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By williams lester accountants
29th Apr 2024 10:51

I think that there will be less junior roles in the next couple of years, AI will start to work on the menial and repetitive tasks which are easy to reproduce by simple machine learning and AI, then as the older generation of accountants reach retirement the slack will be taken up by AI for the work normally done by the seniors and partners. So, i believe we here now could be the last generation of human accountants to work in the profession!

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Replying to williams lester accountants:
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By johnjenkins
02nd May 2024 10:07

It's that picking up bits of paper, analysing them, as a junior, that gives you that insight as to how the business ticks. I still don't think AI will ever have that capability.

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By RobbieT
29th Apr 2024 11:00

Sounds like an easy get-out for some newly-disgraced auditor firm caught with their pants down. "Ah well, you just can't get reliable AI these days"

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By justsotax
29th Apr 2024 11:52

Until their is a motivation to solve people's problems AI will never take over - because it will come at a cost.

I currently have to scan my own food, then answer multiple screens before I get to pay (and get asked if I want to donate to something) - whats in it for me....well it ain't faster (half the time it bleeps because it has an issue with the number of bags etc).....none of this benefits me as the consumer......not one element......so we can push the AI narrative.....but as usual it will com with numerous caveats....and at a cost.

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By rmillaree
29th Apr 2024 14:11

it now seems to be a friendly ‘co-pilot’, removing some of the “menial” tasks in accounting, such as checking transactions on an audit.

hmmmmm - at the end of the day will the AI sort out the asociated tax enquiry ?- until it does is it not just business as usual ? it just might be that the menial task is spotting the ai errors rather than getting it right in the first place by manual posting.

generally for example any technical adjustments on xero or sage can take a disproportionate amount of time compared to getting it right in the first place by not obsolving one of ones responsibilities of have a system in place that is fit for purpose.

Trust me when i say standards are often significantly lower when ai automated items are driving stuff - if its not done in very systematic fashion.

the skillset need is higher for sure when one needs to check the ai rather than do it manually so thats the task at hand really - if one wants same level of quality.

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By johnthegood
29th Apr 2024 14:31

I think overuse of AI is going to create issues in the same way it already does when people can "use" cloud accounting software without understanding whats going on in the background.

But the only people who seem to care are those that care about, and take pride in the job they do, and those that have been trained to understand the implications, the vast majority will happily sacrifice accuracy for speed and price.

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By Maslins
29th Apr 2024 14:35

It'll just change the role of a junior.

When I trained in audit ~20 years ago, much of a first year's job was finding invoices from big filing cabinets, photocopying for the audit file, then returning.

~10 years ago systems would already be in place enabling you to search for a soft copy in a Windows folder. Now you probably just click a button in the sales ledger to get the doc.

None of these improvements have eliminated the role of juniors. Just changed them, so they now do (very slightly) less menial tasks!

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By Postingcomments
29th Apr 2024 17:21

People said this about the outsourcing of work to India about 15 years ago.
Did it?

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John Toon
By John Toon
30th Apr 2024 11:02

Define junior role 20 years ago, then 10 years ago, now and 10 years hence. They're all different and always will do as technology, compliance, working practices etc continually change. For some firms these changes take longer than they should to filter through, that's about it really

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By Paul Crowley
30th Apr 2024 11:52

Did calculators block the pipeline?
AI is just a tool, but less reliable than a calculator.

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By JCresswellTax
02nd May 2024 10:55

Far too early to know the answer to that.

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Morph
By kevinringer
03rd May 2024 13:17

AI seems to be yet something else that has not delivered. Back in the 70s we were told how computers would take our jobs. We use computers for everything, but it hasn't reduced our work and we're still serving similar client volumes. Instead, greater complexity has been introduced so any time savings that might have existed has been used to deal with the complexity. If AI is so wonderful, why is accounting software as unintelligent as it has always been? Shouldn't we be seeing the benefits of AI now? There's no point speculating about what changes AI will deliver when AI is failing to deliver.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
03rd May 2024 15:47

According to Mark Lee, we are looking at 5 - 10 years before AI even gets things up to scratch. Just think what will take over from AI in 10 years time.

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