Will AI and Automation Replace Accounting Jobs?

 

According to CNBC, Finance jobs that require A.I. skills increased 60% within a year. This question also comes up often with the rise of online tools such as QuickBooks, Xero and FreeAgent - programs that took what had once been an accountant’s bread and butter away from them: Bookkeeping. 

These days, bookkeeping is made so simple by the use of these and many other tools that many accountants don’t even offer the service anymore. 

Not only that, but many year-end tax filings are simplified by the use of these cloud tools, such as Self-Assessments and other reports required for UK company filings.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 25.98% of accounting jobs are at risk due to automation.

Banking professionals might likewise be feeling the pressure. Former Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, Antony Jenkins, chimed in on the predictions of doom and gloom for the FinServ workers of the world in 2018, predicting that banking would lose “swathes” of jobs to AI. 

Adapt, or cease to exist

What these predictors all have in common is a failure to understand the process of evolution. 

The world does not stay the same. Either it improves, or it becomes worse. 

To quote Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change.”

Newspapers have complained bitterly for years about the rise of technology which was bringing their sales down. Research indicates that Craigslist alone was responsible for an accumulated loss of $5.4 billion to newspapers’ revenue between 2000 and 2007. 

The newspaper industry continues to suffer a decline to the degree that they don’t adapt. Warren Buffet commented in 2007 that many newspaper executives “were either blind or indifferent to what was going on under their noses” — he was referring to the change in the way people were receiving their news: The internet. 

Blockbuster went bust as a result of a combination of ignorance, pride and an inability to adapt to relentless change. Netflix once offered to buy Blockbuster’s digital arm, but the deal was stopped, and Blockbuster went bust because of it. 

That’s a lot of jobs lost because of stubbornness and the refusal to adapt to change. 

Wrong question

According to the UK’s Institute of Chartered Accountants, many of the jobs in the highest demand did not exist 10 years ago. In addition 65% of children who are entering primary school now are expected to end up working in roles that currently do not exist. That article also adds that according to the University of Oxford’s research from 2015, accountants have a 95% chance of losing their jobs as machines take over the number crunching and data analysis unless they adapt to the changing world.

Companies need to embrace training their existing employees on emerging technologies. Your employees know your company. These employees are the individual cells which form up the ecosystem of your business. 

The real question is not whether AI and Automation are replacing jobs. The question is “Why are many existing institutions not putting the welfare of their clients and staff forward and focus getting ahead of the curve rather than try to stop it?” 

Fintech creates job opportunities

A study conducted by Robert Walters in 2018 found that:

  • London fintech companies increased job creation by 61 per cent.
  • There were 37 per cent more roles available in IT in the fintech sector.

Intuit, makers of QuickBooks, has 9,400 employees and nearly four hundred job openings at the time of this writing. 

Xero has over 3,000 employees. 

Both Revolut and TransferWise show staggering amounts of hiring growth, totalling over 5,000 employees for both of them. 

The increased regulation of blockchain and DLT will continue to demand a stronger financial sector workforce that specialises in these areas. 

That’s a lot of jobs! 

Blockbusters of the FinServ world

If accountants and financial institutions don’t want to become the Blockbusters of the FinServ world, then they should embrace the new technologies and find out exactly how they can offer better service because of them. 

No one can argue that the number of jobs per capita available today dwarfs the number available before the first industrial revolution. 

Anything which benefits the economy will ultimately benefit the worker. 

Automation will transform financial jobs instead of replacing them and AI will create more jobs in the financial sector than it will replace.

Do you have a Fintech or Accounting product idea that can help evolve the industry? Write to me at karl@thorgate.eu to discuss a cost & time efficient way to develop or scale your product.

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