Accounting & transformative technology – Risk or Opportunity?

The impact of robotics and transformative technology is one of the hottest topics in finance and accounting today. If you believe some of it, we are heading to a dystopian future where jobs, as we know them today, will all be wiped out and machines will rule the world. But let’s leave the science fiction for a while, and look at what digitalisation of the economy really means for employment of finance and accounting professionals.

The reality is that automation and transformative technologies in finance are not futuristic concepts – it’s already here, and is growing fast. In their 2019 CFO Study, Grant Thornton reported that 25% of CFO’s surveyed had already implemented some form of Artificial Intelligence. Compare this to only 7% in 2018. Another 25% stated that they planned to implement AI within the next 12 months.

On the topic of machine learning, 30% said that they have already implemented machine learning and 25% said they will do so in 12 months. Additionally, 25% of those surveyed said that their business used some form of robotic process automation (RPA) in finance, compared to 6% in 2018.

So, a new wave of technology is upon us and this is the first generation of finance professionals that are actually working side by side with robots. What does that mean for workers and skills in the finance and accounting sector?

I firmly believe that there is nothing to fear and actually quite the opposite. This new wave of digitalisation in finance will create more opportunities and generate a higher number of interesting roles because of a range of factors:

Today’s finance professionals embrace technology

Today’s finance professionals do not fear technology. Quite the opposite, they embrace it as an essential part of their everyday life. In our annual survey into the digital finance employment market 86% of respondents stated that they were not concerned about the impact of automation on job security

When new innovations come along, today’s professionals want to explore and see how it will make their business activity more effective.

As Chris Argent, founder of the respected channel Generation CFO points out in his blog Automation Redundancy is Fake News “finance professionals are educated, analysts and have a baseline skill set that is in demand and as much in the low risk range as the high-risk range… we will adapt to survive!”

I would take it one step further and suggest that accounting and finance professionals have an analytical mind-set that will encourage adoption of new innovations and help us to get the best out of automation to improve our lives.

Innovation creates industries

Whenever there is ground breaking innovation, new sectors, businesses and opportunities arise. When Henry Ford perfected the assembly line, making the newly invented automobile cheaper and more accessible to the masses, an entire new economy emerged. His innovation had a knock-on effect for a wide range of related and unrelated industries. The same for the industrial revolution – machines suddenly were able to do the work of many men. In time, it created an enormous new opportunity and new skilled jobs emerged

Digitalisation will create a similar sea change in employment. New jobs and job titles, many not even invented yet, will emerge and opportunities will abound.

Anyone available for a job as a Human to Machine UX Specialist? Or an AI-Assisted Finance Technician?

CFO’s want and need better insight

A third factor that is driving increased use of transformative technologies in accounting and finance, is that it’s good for business. We are swimming in an ocean of data and CFO’s want and need better insight on that data to drive their business forward.

Automation frees up our talented finance teams from the mundane repetitive tasks and gives them the time and freedom to drive strategy by showing their strength in analysis and business partnering.

And as we discovered in our survey of digital finance professionals, innovation into transformative technologies is a must to hire the best talent. Executing technology programmes will serve as a valuable recruiting advantage because today’s finance professionals are seeking out positions that can pair financial and technology expertise.

This article was written by James Porter for the PointView Resources website.

Leave a Reply