In a speech to Liverpool University last night, Bank of England chief Mark Carney estimated that up to 15 million of the current jobs in Britain could be done by automated robots over time, with whole professions—including accounting—eliminated.
John Williams, head of ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) UK, thinks that Mr Carney is absolutely correct in noting the huge impact that automation will have on the accounting profession, but he disagrees with the notion that the rise of the robots signals the end of accounting. And if artificial intelligence did signal the end of accountants, it would also signal the end of central bankers!
Williams says, ‘Robotic process automation refers to software that performs repetitive processes and interacts with multiple applications, all under the control of a human manager. It is a natural next-step in the evolution of finance transformation, but it is not capable of building relationships, or replacing all systems and staff.’
More than half (57 per cent) of young finance professionals believe that technology will replace entry level roles in the profession.
The majority (84 per cent) believe this will allow them to focus on higher value-added activity.
He adds, ‘The accounting profession is facing a unique opportunity: digital is enabling the traditional finance function to shift up the value chain, from score keeper and caretaker to communicator and business partner. Transactional tasks are being outsourced, and cost effectively so, and opportunities have been freed up for professional accountants to become business partners.
‘Accountants are at the front line of change, and our profession has a huge role to play in ensuring that we embrace technological changes, and use them to efficiently run Britain’s businesses.’
Williams concludes, ‘Technology is not a threat to our accountants: it’s an opportunity. The accountants of the future will be highly trained in digital and ethical skill sets, and they will need these to manage the automated entry-level, as they focus on creating broader, more strategic value for Britain’s businesses.’