Human skills to come to the fore as accounting adopts AI

  • Person icon Tim Evershed
  • Calendar icon 13 June 2024 16:25

As the accounting profession adopts artificial intelligence (AI) technology the importance of people skills will grow, Mercia’s latest ‘Insight from the Experts’ event, Future-Ready Skills, was told.

Human skills including analytical judgement, professional scepticism, relationship building and flexibility will all be key to the successful adoption of AI.


Accountant’s armoury

Daniel Clark, AI-assisted writer and trainer was the expert at the online event that was available exclusively to Mercia members.

Clark, who is a chartered accountant and Chair of the ICAEW Tech Faculty Board, says: “The ability to work with AI is going to be a very important skill in the next few years. Tools will be available, how do I use them to their best, how do I use them where it is ethical and appropriate.”

“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.


Supercharge productivity

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%.

Clark says: “AI will really supercharge a lot of the processing stuff. There will be less time doing routine, repeatable work, less time looking for information and more emphasis on understanding the technology.”


Making an impact

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.


Confidentiality and bias

There are a number of well-documented issues and risks with the use of AI. These include a lack of accuracy., 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.


Exciting opportunity

Although these risks will need managing, AI is part of accounting’s future and learning to use it will be key to continued success.

Clark says: “This is a really exciting opportunity. We’re going to have more scope to add value. A lot of the routine stuff that we’ve done in the past is going to get taken away. We will now have time to think, to interpret data, to help people understand financial issues. We can meet the demand that is currently unmet.

“Most accounting practices don’t have a problem finding clients, they have a problem meeting demand. If we get all these productivity tools it will mean we can do so much more.

He concludes: “The AI revolution is not coming anymore, it is here. It is speeding up and now is our time to engage. It is easier to engage now than it will be in a few years’ time.”


Developing the skills

Daniel Clark will be presenting a series of courses for Mercia that will help firms and professionals develop the skills they need to thrive as rapidly changing technology shapes the industry.

Courses will cover what AI means for accountants, using and communicating with data, building a tech-enabled organisation and digital mindset and skills. Find out more here.

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