What’s your plan for when robots take over compliance work?

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With technological advancement comes disruption. Traditional employment opportunities will evolve. Jobs that we think are safe and secure might just be automated out of existence and new jobs will take their place.

Research from Wikijobs revealed at the end of last year that 32% of accounting graduates are concerned about automation filling accounting vacancies. However, the ever-expanding set of tasks that a computer can take care of will eventually allow the creation of new roles that will benefit your business.

After getting in touch with several accounting experts and asking them about the impact of AI on their roles, the general consensus was that you’ll need to keep an open mind and be prepared to embrace the changing times:

Robots will free you from menial tasks

Automation is already taking care of repetitive tasks, such as the scanning and the OCR of documents, says Scot Justice, who used to run a CPA firm and now works in academia. While you may lose compliance revenue when accounting automation takes over, you can use this to your advantage. “While some may see it as a threat to the workforce, I see it as a positive opportunity to better serve our clients and heighten performance,” says Roger Philipp, CEO and founder of Roger CPA Review.

You’ll have time to focus on devoting your knowledge and skills to helping clients (legally) shave money off their tax bill and increase investment earnings: “You can’t do this if you’re stuck doing routine tasks,” says award-winning journalist Kay Bell, blogger at Don’t Mess With Taxes. “When these tasks can be taken care of automatically, that frees up time for accountants to do what they do best: provide knowledge, strategy and one-on-one counselling to clients for bigger picture financial.”

The accountant’ strength: the human touch

Automation hasn’t yet be able to replicate the level of human interaction and trust required for client relationships, and that’s why accountants will be more necessary than ever: “Accounting isn’t just a numbers business. At the heart of it, it’s a people business,” says Philipp. “You’ll never be able to automate the individual, personal analysis that is key to an accountant's job. Face-to-face advice and explanations to clients can never be replaced,” Bell adds.

However, it is important to take into account the added value of technology. Providing your clients with insight and drive their business forward is key to retaining them: “The future of accountancy is in the value that accountants can add to business. This includes insights into the efficiency of the current business model and more importantly, where the business can go and how to get it there,” says Trevor Hartshorne, practicing accountant and chairman of cloud-based predictive accounting platform Jazoodle.

The software and information systems available today mean that larger volumes of data can be analysed and more insights can be provided: “This can ensure that nothing gets missed, which lowers audit risk. This information can help firms, businesses, and organisations better understand their demographic and zero in on key pain points,” says Philipp.

You’ll work with robots, not against them

Technology exists to “play an active supporting role in carrying out traditional accounting functions, leading to greater accuracy and efficiency,” says Prableen Bajpai, director of FinFix Research & Analytics.

As technology advances there’ll be no need to fear it – you should expect to be working alongside automation harmoniously and not competing against it for jobs:  “Automation can be tremendously helpful for the accountants and their clients as long as everyone sees it at as what it is: simply a tool to make the job and results better,” says Bell.

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