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The future accountant

Andrew Williamson has a vision about what the accountant of the future will look like

July 2018

The accountancy profession has undergone huge changes in recent years. Different software and systems have emerged, which are changing the way we do things. Receipts can be scanned on to phones, basic bookkeeping carried out through an app and invoices paid on the go.
Automation of the basic finance processes is starting to take effect and this is a trend that is certain to continue. We know job roles are changing and are set to change even more over the next five years.
So what will the future accountant look like and how will roles develop over time?
AAT surveyed over 250 accountants and bookkeepers to get a sense of the future. We spoke to students and more experienced members to understand what’s changed so far and how they see the profession developing. How can accountants and bookkeepers stay relevant in a world increasingly reliant on technology?
Our research overwhelmingly showed that people think technological advances are positive (89%), with over three-quarters saying it had made their job easier or freed up their time to do more interesting things. Some 60% think basic accountancy processes will be fully automated within five years and that automation will be the biggest change for the accountancy profession.
Roles will change to become more focused on information, analysis and business advice. Reporting in real time will allow for issues to be identified quickly and reported to the business and/or clients.
Expectations of clients and colleagues will change too. Information will need to be delivered in real time and much faster. However, they will need more help in understanding and interpreting data. Big data will result in information overload for many managers and both directors and finance professionals will need to understand and communicate this information. There will need to be someone to oversee and understand the process.
Bookkeeping will become entirely digital and paper processes completely eliminated. There will be an automation of information from banks to software systems. Our respondents predict accountancy will become more IT-based, with a growth in software development and support roles.
Skill sets will need to change accordingly. Accountants and bookkeepers will need to understand and use technology, think more strategically and analyse data. This is an exciting time for our industry as accountants can recognise how much value they can add to the information that a computer may produce for them.
AAT be will be debating ‘the Future Accountant’ and how the profession will evolve at its annual member conference in June.
• Andrew Williamson is the AAT’s Director of Marketing and Commercial

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