Accounting Pros Optimistic on Automation of Profession

More than nine in ten finance and accounting professionals (92%) are optimistic about increased automation in the profession, according to new research from Renaix, an international recruitment consultancy for finance and accounting.

The study, which questioned over 200 finance and accounting professionals, reveals that 81% are seeing their role impacted by emerging technologies, such as advanced data analytics (63%), cloud computing (42%), robotics (17%) and artificial intelligence (15%). This increases to more than nine in ten (94%) who believe these technologies will impact their role in the next five years.

Yet, despite the increasing role of technology, only 12% of those questioned believe their job will be completely automated within the next five years, with most seeing new tools as an opportunity rather than threat. Two thirds (69%) say automation will enable them to be more efficient, over half (59%) say it will allow them to add greater value to clients and 40% say it will reduce the amount of transactional work they’re involved in.   

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, with more than half (59%) of respondents having to learn new skills to keep up with technological developments, with data analytics (54%), soft skills (54%) and working with new technologies (51%) coming top of the list.

Many are also worried about skills shortages over the coming years, particularly in data analytics (52%), STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths – 42%), and soft skills (31%). Furthermore, a quarter (25%) of those questioned say their employer still isn’t investing in upskilling the finance function to work with new technologies.

Paul Jarrett, Managing Director at Renaix, comments: “Emerging technologies are set to transform the finance and accounting sectors, with many professionals already feeling the impact on their day-to-day responsibilities. And it’s encouraging to see that, far from being intimidated or threatened by these new ways of working, the majority of professionals are excited and optimistic, believing automation will improve and expand their role in the coming years.

“Finance and accounting organisations have a fantastic opportunity to drive forward digital transformation, empowering all employees to play their part in developing and implementing new ways of working. However, to do so effectively, employers need to ensure they are equipping the workforce with the right skills, as well as investing in bringing in the right talent. While there will always be a need for traditional finance and accounting skills, we’re seeing a significant rise in demand for a broader range of backgrounds, particularly those with STEM qualifications. Businesses therefore need to plan their talent needs effectively, to ensure they stay ahead of the game.”