Developing Future-Ready Skills: AI and Automation in Accounting

  • Person icon Mercia Group
  • Calendar icon 9 July 2024 12:17

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is changing the world of work in many industries and accountancy is no exception. AI has a range of uses that will be applicable to accountants, from streamlining basic tasks to aiding research, automating transactions to dealing with large documents.

Understanding the roles AI can play and developing the skills to maximise its benefits will be important for accountants over the next few years. Here, we take a look at what AI is and what it means for accountants.


What is AI? 

AI is the technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.

On its own or combined with other technologies (such as sensors, geolocation and robotics), AI can perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence or intervention. 

Digital assistants, GPS guidance, autonomous vehicles and generative AI tools (like Open AI's Chat GPT) are just a few examples of AI in the daily news and our daily lives.


Productivity gains

There are good cases for accountants to use AI in assisting with many of their existing tasks.

AI technology can aid with research, automate transactions or process PDF invoices. It can also generate risk assessment or modelling scenarios.

It can also help boost productivity in areas like writing emails, where AI has already been shown to make productivity gains of up to 30-40%.


Already growing

The use of AI is already growing in the accountancy profession, with larger firms investing in the technology while third-party providers are also ramping up their offerings.

Areas where AI is already having an impact in the industry include automated document reviews. Here AI is used to identify relevant information in large documents and also to process the unstructured data that is held in documentation.

It is also being used in areas such as financial risk discovery, tax reviews and small business accounting.


Hallucinations and deepfakes

There are a number of well-documented issues and risks with the use of AI. These include a lack of accuracy, including cases where AI has ‘hallucinated’ examples of legal decisions or other supposedly official information.

There are also confidentiality concerns (public AI models are not confidential so no client information or data should ever be input into them) and biased data.

There is also the well documented increased risk of fraud and the growing problem of deepfakes.

Deepfakes are videos or audio recordings that manipulate a person's likeness. They then appear to do/say something that person never did.

Deepfakes have the potential to spread false information or propaganda. They can also play a role in cyberbullying and scams.


The right skills

The ability to work with AI is going to be an important skill in the next few years. New tools will be available and knowing how to get the best out of those tools and use them where it is ethical and appropriate will be key.

However, an accountant’s existing skillset will be equally important. Analytical judgement, professional scepticism, relationship building and flexibility will all be key to the successful adoption of AI.

There will also be a lot more emphasis on people skills. It is a key part of the accountant’s armoury because this is the stuff the AI can’t do. It can’t build relationships, it can’t communicate properly.


Find out more

Find out more about developing future-ready skills here.

This course is part of a series in which Daniel Clark helps firms and professionals understand and develop the skillsets that will enable them to thrive in a world shaped by rapidly changing technology.

This course will cover:

  • The basics of AI, especially GenAI
  • Cases for accountants.
  • The need for judgement.
  • Touch on automation and identifying suitable processes 

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