Richard Sergeant concludes his Dickensian tale with a visit from the third accounting spirit who shows scenes of robots and AI. Will accountants pledge to change their tech ways?
As the fog clears, the ghost of accounting Christmas yet to come takes us on a journey into the unknown.
“I fear you more than any spectre I have seen – more than Making Tax Digital or blockchain. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.”
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But what will the accounting apparition be showing us?
Is it a scene of a bleak robot winter, where it is not just accounting firms that are shut (and indeed not just for Christmas)?
Or will we peer through the frosted windows to a more homely domestic scene, cosying up to the fire with our favourite AI assistant, and working tirelessly to speak of only the most important things impacting a client's business?
What is for sure is that the world looks familiar but somehow different.
On the Christmas table sits a large fat vegan alternative turkey, cooked to perfection. It’s a happy scene of bustling activity, as the business family prepare dinner safe in the knowledge that their year-end accounts will be sorted as soon as the final cracker is pulled.
But if the robots hold no fear for business owners of the future then, but what about the profession?
The firm owners of the future speak
Those accountants lucky to be working around the Christmas period may be sunning themselves in warmer climates, as Chloe Watson, currently working towards qualification with PJCO Accountants, believes: “My world will be completely different. ACCA is opening up more doors and the world of work is global. I can see myself travelling the world, in a working capacity, meeting new people, continuing to learn about different cultures and how I, and accountancy, can help them.”
By 2030, the shape and dynamic of the accounting profession seems potentially very different, as the impact of the retirement of many a partner has gifted the opportunity for a new generation to take over the practice, but will they do so? Or will they, in fact, be starting up their own practices instead, creating new models and ways of working thanks to the fruition of the fintech revolution, digital tax regime, and real-time data inspection?
“As long as you have all the tools in place, you can serve clients in the best way possible and that can mean operating and communicating in very different ways. Not fragmented but networked - staff and clients,” continued Watson.
The great skills shortage may have tipped many firms into abandoning the idea of the generalist in favour of teams of specialists.
According to Soaring Falcon’s Jake Mizen, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. “Accountants will need very different skills and tools to handle the very different types of businesses that will be around. Firms will even need people internally to create and develop specific applications just for them to use.”
Interestingly technology has becomes part of the USP again, but only the old-timers reminisce about ‘cloud’.
“Brand will be very important. You will have to stand out in some kind of way, and develop your reputation. Advertising what makes you unique, developing your own tech, as well as how you use what everyone else does better and more effectively. This will part of developing your brand,” added Mizan.
But as we stare through the window there is one chair that is empty...
Whose name is upon the stone?
The ghost drifts towards the graveyard and pauses, pointing a long bony finger towards a tomb in the distance, but which name will be engraved upon it?
Is it Xero? Perhaps, swallowed up by a larger technology company? Or Sage, having never quite made the transition to the cloud work for everyone? Or maybe Receipt Bank, laid to rest quietly by the logical conclusion of Open Banking?
And to one side another stone, more ornate than the others, carved with many names – maybe of those that fought the rising tide of changes, or perhaps those that embraced the world of cloud too much and became lost in the fog along the way?
Or maybe it is of AccountingWEB itself, dear reader. The names inscribed with those who would police the comments and Any Answers sections in days gone by, replaced now with an artificial intelligence greater than can be contained on a mere website.
But as Scrooge McAccountant leaps from her bed and realises it is still the present, the haunting ghost of accountant Christmas future stirs her into action.
Flinging open the window she excitedly shouts to a passing child below: “Is that vegan goose still in the window of the health food shop?”
The curtain closes once more.