I spotted this headline in Forbes. “Why Artificial Intelligence Is The Future of Accounting”. This statement seemed to run counter to a lot of robot scare stories I’ve come across since taking up my role as Accountex editor three weeks ago.
The author of a new study, Jean Baptiste Su, VP and analyst at Atherton Research, reckons: “More than most other industries, accounting hasn’t seen much innovation since the creation of double-entry bookkeeping – a process of recording both profits and losses – and considered one of the greatest advances in the history of business and commerce. That was over 500 years ago!”
Opportunities and serious challenges
He adds: “We expect that by 2020, accounting tasks – but also tax, payroll, audits, banking – will be fully automated using AI-based technologies, which will disrupt the accounting industry in a way it never was for the last 500 years, bringing both huge opportunities and serious challenges.” Sound familiar?
And it’s at this point that I realised just how many of these AI articles come equipped with a familiar rider, too. It goes along the lines of… machine learning efficiency needs to improve to avoid errors … in order that automation can fulfill its promise. When it does, it’ll be OK because accountants can take on a more advisory role.
All this is bound to become clear. One day. What does seem pretty clear to me now, though, is that there is a massive difference between automation and intelligence… artificial or otherwise.
And this seems to be overlooked by many observers in the field.
A way to go on GDPR
About two-thirds of businesses worldwide are not ready for the arrival of General Data Protection Regulation, which, in case you didn’t know, is on 25 May.
But worry not… that’s the headline figure from an EY survey. In Europe that figure rises to nearly two-thirds of companies have compliance plans in place. That’s good news, as far as it goes. But that still leaves a third with no strategy…
Called to account on diversity
Diversity and gender equality are big news in so many areas of society at the moment. (Unless, of course, you are the BBC, where there is “no evidence of gender bias“.)
Meanwhile, big accountancy firms PwC (they carried out the BBC gender survey), KPMG and EY are among the top 100 inclusive employers, as ranked by LGBT charity Stonewall.
Fiona Wilkinson, ICAEW vice-president, says, “Diversity is a powerful force for good. We know that businesses benefit from strong diversity and inclusion policies and practices that help both attract the best talent as well as a diverse range of clients.
“I urge member firms to do more to promote equality and diversity in the workplace and, whatever their size, to consider applying to Stonewall’s Index.”
Drum roll… Fanfare … Party poppers! It’s time to look at the top of Accountancy Age‘s Financial Power list for 2018. And at number one in the top 50 folk who’ll have the biggest influence on accountancy this year is … Brexit Secretary David Davis. Oh dear.
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