Are Robots Taking Over the Finance Profession? The Impact of Technology and AI on the Finance Sector
Posted by Kate Green
Nobody knows for certain what the future of the finance profession will hold, but technology will undoubtedly be involved. Automation and other technologies, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI) are revolutionizing finance and accounting work, and accounting professionals need to be prepared for whatever happens next. There has been discussion amongst finance industry commentators who believe technology will eventually replace many existing finance positions. Changes in accounting automation has resulted in finance functions boosting efficiencies and aligning with digital transformation initiatives, and technologies such as cloud computing, software robots and virtual reality are transforming workplaces and revolutionizing finance and accounting work. As a result, repetitive single-function jobs are most immediately under threat, particularly task-based and data-driven roles, and experts have predicted that by the latter half of the next decade AI will have advanced even further and potentially replace more sophisticated roles. Some UK accountants are worried that their jobs will be outsourced, whether this consists of roles being sent overseas or replaced by technology. Post-Brexit uncertainty was the main worry for 31.6% of accountancy professionals recently surveyed by GovGrant in association with Accountancy Age, but technology-based change was cited as the biggest challenge, with 40.5% of survey participants fearing being replaced by technology and 30% concerned about keeping up with new technological developments. However, the survey also revealed a degree of optimism along with an awareness of the need to adapt to technology and provide value-added services, with only 5.8% very pessimistic about the future of the sector. As surmised by GovGrant CEO Luke Hamm - “There are opportunities out there right now for accountants to start redefining the services they provide and the interactions they have with their customers”. So, do finance professionals need to be concerned about the future impact of technology on the sector? It can be easy to worry that new and disruptive technologies, such as AI, will only have a negative impact on jobs, but technology’s power to change the landscape of a profession and the nature of work is not a new phenomenon. Just as technology has and will inevitably make some jobs obsolete in the future, it will also create opportunities for innovation and open up new markets and career paths. Eliminating task-based and purely data-driven work, AI will give accounting professionals the chance to take on fresh responsibilities and gain more exposure to different areas of the profession, advancing skills as analysts and advisers. While audit and other traditional finance jobs may be under threat, few firms have said that auditors will become obsolete - instead, the finance sector will look for strategic vision and advisory skills in employees. Rather than just seeking a data-driven skill set, firms will look to hire people with strong advisory skills, strategic and commercial awareness, and emotional awareness and people skills - those important soft skills that a robot or automation system won’t have. As a result, it is unlikely that accounting automation and robotic finance professionals will completely replace humans any time soon. However, it is still a good idea to future proof your career by anticipating technological changes in your workplace and increasingly working with automated tools and emerging technologies to perform the best possible service. Skills to help your career moving forward may include data analytics, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and creativity and strategic thinking. As long as you stay ahead of changes in the digital space and continuously update and refresh your skillset, accounting automation and technological developments are unlikely to become a major threat to your career success. Rather than shy away from major developments in this unprecedented period of technological change, be bold and flexible, and focus on innovations and use them to you and your firm’s advantage, ultimately advancing your career. For more information on this article or to speak to our finance recruitment experts about changes in the sector and your options in the market, contact Kate on 020 7269 6363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.