Accountants can add value in a tech-driven environment, say AAT members

The AAT annual conference 2017
Wednesday 14 June 2017 - 16:00

Licensed members of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) have reported that the future for the accounting profession is bright despite fears over the rise in automation.

At this year’s AAT Annual Conference members were surveyed on their views on technological advances in accountancy, and its subsequent future impact on jobs. 38 AAT members responded during the Conference, held in Windsor during 8-9 June, while a further 399 members replied via Green Room, AAT’s online research community.

  • 10% say they are "very concerned" about robots taking over accounting jobs, but far more (32%) put their concern level at "fairly"
  • 58% are "not very" or "not at all" concerned, suggesting they see automation as an "opportunity", not a threat
  • 48% of licensed AAT members believe that technology is already having a major impact on the nature of accounting roles
  • Members think invoice processing, administering payroll and bookkeeping will be the main elements of accounting that will become automated within the next decade, but that auditing financial information, tax planning and advising senior management will not.

Jesse Norton, editorial director of communications consultancy Flibl, who spoke at the Conference on how technology is revolutionising finance, was enthusiastic about the role that technology is already bringing the accountancy profession.

"Accountants are already feeling the impact of smarter technology, with automation shifting the needs of clients and improving the efficiency of accountancy firms," he said. "More and more, we’ll see routine tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping and compliance work being automated."

Brian Palmer, tax policy expert for AAT, added that there will always be a strong requirement for human accountants – and that advances in new technology should be something that accountants learn to work with, not against.

He said: "Accountants will always fulfil a vital and necessary role in the lives of their clients. But in order to do so, accountants will need to focus on the provision of 'value-added services'. This will ensure that they are, in effect, 'humanising' the results that computers might produce in real time and advising clients on how to get the best for their business.

"Automation should be a great opportunity for accountants, not least because it frees them from much of the dull and monotonous administrative and compliance work that is of little value to anyone. This in turn will enable accountants more time to advise on how client finances should be set up to ensure business success for the future."

Infographic showing how concerned AAT members are about automation of accounting tasks, after a poll taken at the Annual Conference 2017