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Is this the end of accountancy as we know it?

Written by James Thomas on Wednesday, 16 January 2019. Posted in Finance

With the advent of financial technology and artificial intelligence entering all sectors, no industry can stand still. So is this the end of accountancy as we know it?

Is this the end of accountancy as we know it?

Although Marty McFly didn’t quite get the hoverboard right, I think we can all agree our current personal and professional landscape looks somewhat different to how it did when Back to the Future II first hit cinemas in 1989. Technological advances are flying – or hovering – at us at an ever- increasing rate and this of course drives through into our everyday working lives.

For better or worse, all companies have had to adapt to this exponential advancement in technology, which is no longer just limited to updating your computers every few years. Regardless of sector or industry we’ve all been affected and accountancy is no exception to this trend.

With the right systems and tools, our computers can easily perform tasks like tax preparation, reconciliations and make short work of bookkeeping. Increasingly sophisticated technologies allow accountants to enhance their traditional ways of working, meaning they’re no longer simply bean counters but are able to use these tools to be of even greater value to their clients.

At d&t we pride ourselves on our ability to benchmark and consolidate our franchise clients’ financial data and transform that into network-wide improvements that can streamline accounts and increase that ever-elusive profit margin. All this is driven by technology and software to support our team.

As a profession though, accountancy is certainly not exempt from technology-driven transformation. In fact, fintech is radically disruptive to traditional accountancy on many fronts and, as it will in many sectors, artificial intelligence is very likely to replace many job functions.

Now you may be thinking I’m slowly writing myself out of a job. But while this is a concerning prospect for many in the industry, the most forward-looking firms are actually very comfortable about the fact that provision of basic compliance services will no longer require the time of expensive qualified professionals in the near future. Cloud-based technology can be faster, more effective and even more accurate than us error-prone humans.

However, technology is changing the game, not the rules. And this is another instance where we, as an industry, need to readjust our thinking and allow ourselves to adapt to this change, embracing the software and technology and using it to better service our clients.

So how would this work? By freeing up an accountant’s time, they’re able to focus on providing higher-value services, using their professional insight and capabilities to read the numbers and translate them into tangible, real advice and recommendations. And in all actuality this will likely bring down your fees for completing core compliance, whilst offering you a smorgasbord of subsidiary services to supplement the growth of your business.

As we usher ourselves into this new era, that too will change. One of our directors is loud, extroverted, tattooed and rarely seen out of his designer jeans and trainers – and yet he’s heading two financial service firms. Accountants can, of course, be as interesting and diverse as any other professions – no, really – but at the same time, who would want to be the client of an accountant that wasn’t good with numbers?

I’d argue that number-crunching alone hasn’t been enough for some time and, especially looking forwards into the near future, just being good with numbers isn’t enough anymore. The accountancy  rm of the future will of course need numbers staff but the true value they can offer clients will be in using those figures and wealth of business experience and acumen to help clients succeed, not just in compliance. Obviously the numbers will always be important but the insight and advice they’re able to o er is far more valuable, enabling business owners to overcome obstacles, maximise opportunities and minimise threats to their operation.

Business is a complex web of finance, processes, products, sales, marketing, innovation and people. A business might be family- owned, franchised or have complex shareholding arrangements. There will be multiple motivations with varied short and long-term goals. That’s why the best firms won’t just have accountants to provide advice – they’ll have a team of experts who can offer guidance and insight from a range of perspectives and in various formats to suit clients’ purposes.

Does this mean all accounting services as we know it will become redundant? Of course not. There will always be a need in both business and personal lives. All it means is the landscape will shift, together with our involvement within it. And who knows, when it finally does, maybe we’ll be heading to work on pink hoverboards. After all, where we’re going, we may not need roads. 

About the Author

James Thomas

James Thomas

Having worked within the franchise industry as an operations coordinator in the past, Thomas has developed experience of facilitating the relationship between franchisor and franchise network, which led him to become franchise relationship manager at d&t chartered accountants

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