Artificial Intelligence: The future of the accounting profession.
Artificial intelligence (AI) as a term was coined in 1956. Since we live in a tech driven world, it was conceptualized out of the desire to have an increased accuracy in data analysis which was hitherto impossible. AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. For example, you may have heard about self driving cars and chess-playing computers which are heavily reliant on deep learning and natural language processing. One of the hallmarks of AI lies in its ability to observe and learn at an exponentially faster rate. It is called highly intelligent robot that can think for itself.AI brings forward a giant leap for most industries and professions. If it is successfully applied it, it will have a great effect on the modern corporate work environment. It has evolved to provide many specific benefits in every industry. AI in banking is really helping serve the customer better and provide offers that are more relevant to them at the right time through the right channel.
I’m a chartered accountant by profession, not an artificial intelligence expert, so, I owe a duty to write about what I term as the new bogeyman in the accounting industry that seems to be looming over the entire field. Accountants everywhere appear to be worried that they’ll soon be replaced by the robots.
In the 70s, the accounting profession witnessed the advert of DOS, which was an operating system that lived on a floppy disk. The 80s was the era when windows came with excel and word. The 90s birthed the Enterprise resource planning (ERP) which could be described as a database software package that supports all of a business’s processes and operations including manufacturing, marketing, financial, human resources, and so on. The profession, like many others, is still undergoing a significant transformation as the proliferation of mobile and cloud technology makes it easier to enhance productivity, facilitate client relationships and open the door to expand capabilities and services. For example, Cloud computing, along with other technology tools, makes automating data collection, improving data quality and reducing validation time a possibility, according to Intuit’s Future of Accountancy report.
Very soon, we will be in the AI era. Robots will perform accounting tasks faster and more accurate than we human beings and of course, at a cheaper rate. They will work for longer hours without complaining of stress, fatigue or tiredness. Historical information, accounting standards and stock market data will be easily and accurately analysed. Frankly speaking, accountants whose tasks are repetitive may be made redundant as a result of the advent of AI. In fact, anything an accountant can do, AI can also do it at a faster rate. This will ultimately make financial statement more accurate, comparable, reliable and easily verifiable.
With AI getting more prominence by the day, an average accountant, rather than live in fear of imminent job loss, he/she can leverage on area were professional judgements are needed. The sky is so wide for birds to traverse. He/she (the accountant) can focus on areas which require soft skills and strategy which AI could not easily replace or replicate.
Nonetheless, the accounting professional will still be called upon at every level of reporting to perform his oversight function of certifying and signing off accounts that was produced by AI. Expectedly, no one will hold the machine legally liable for damages or negligence which may arise as a result of system or robot error.
We may not be experiencing this in next say, five years in Nigeria, but, that doesn’t serve as an excuse to deny a ragging storm. We live in a global world and also, the only constant thing in life is change.
Finally, on a lighter note, will AI replace our politicians in the future? I guess they will be on the reserved list of occupations that will never be handed over to a machine.
Adeniyi Bamgboye is an advisor on accounting, audit, tax and business. He holds an MBA in financial management and a member of Association of Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA-UK), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN). Contact him on 08060603156 or [email protected]