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Staying Ahead of the Curve: How Accountants are Unlocking the Value of AI

Michael Hitchcock
Posted by Michael Hitchcock on Jul 17, 2023 2:11:19 PM

We’re living in an exciting era of artificial intelligence. These cutting-edge models are transforming the way businesses operate and grow. With all this excitement also comes fear - particularly around job security. There is speculation that accountants are in a group whose careers are at high risk of being eclipsed by AI, but many accountants are embracing the power of AI and machine learning to transform their practices and deliver greater impact for clients. Here are three ways accountants are unlocking the power of AI and realizing its benefits: 

Automating data entry & analysis 

Harkening back to the days of filing cabinets and shoeboxes full of receipts, accountants once had to track and input all of their clients’ data manually – an extremely time-consuming and potentially error-prone process. Business owners and individuals had no choice but to trust their accountants to collect their financial data and get it right. Today, trust is still undeniably the bedrock between accountants and their clients, but the digitization of financial documents has shifted the way this industry conducts business.  

Online accounting platforms can now leverage machine learning models to automatically input data related to clients' financial data, including transactions, account statements, receipts,  tax returns, and more. This automation significantly reduces the time and effort needed to process extensive volumes of data. Accountants can now redirect their energy towards more valuable work - like proactively interacting with clients, providing strategic counsel, and strengthening their financial analysis.  

This streamlined process creates space for accountants to uncover critical, real-time insights that increase their value to their clients by delivering more informed, strategic recommendations.  In a recent QuickBooks survey of 2,000 U.S.-based accountants, 93% said real-time financial insights are important to business success. Rather than constantly working to catch up on data entry, accountants and business owners are using these analyses to power smarter decisions and increase financial confidence. 

Attracting younger talent  

While accounting has always been a pillar in the financial services industry, there is a shortage of young professionals entering the field. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the number of graduates sitting for the CPA exam has dropped from close to 50,000 candidates in 2010 to about 32,000 in 2021. This is perpetuated by outdated stereotypes of an antiquated accounting industry that is behind in technology and does not reflect a diverse population. Accounting professionals recognize this gap and are actively working to combat it. 

The younger generation entering the workforce, particularly those who have grown up in the digital age, are often drawn to industries that embrace cutting-edge technology and innovation. By actively investing in AI and automation, the accounting industry demonstrates its commitment to staying at the forefront of technology and adapting to the changing landscape. Accounting is clearly not as behind the curve as many would think, and the adoption of these technological advancements is just the beginning of the industry-wide evolution happening before our eyes.  

According to the recent Accountant Technology Survey, nearly half (48%) of respondents said they’d be investing in AI in the next 12 months, and an additional 48% said they’d be investing in automation solutions as well. This highlights a growing recognition within the accounting community of the value of these tools.  

Marketing to grow your clientele 

To help build and maintain a strong clientele, many accountants are catching on to generative AI tools like ChatGPT to help create marketing materials and website content that support their growth efforts.  In the next 12 months, 34% of business owners plan to adopt AI-based solutions for marketing and content creation, according to a recent survey 

Nayo Carter-Gray, an accountant who uses ChatGPT to draft email blasts and monthly blog posts, actively shares with the accountant community the benefits she’s realizing from using AI-created content. She uses the AI engine to create templates that she can customize to save time for the actual accounting and advisory work she does on a daily basis with her clients.  

Using ChatGPT to create content helps accountants engage with their target audience effectively, enhance brand visibility, and attract potential clients. For accounting firms, time is one of the most valuable currencies in the workplace, and they should do whatever they can to create more efficient systems. 

As we look ahead to the next two, five, or even 10 years, it's going to be crucial for accountants to be agile and embrace evolving technologies to best serve their clients, particularly in a challenging macroeconomic environment. While AI can streamline an accountant’s day-to-day work by automating repetitive tasks and data processing, it’s important to understand that strong client relationships, strategic counsel, and deep financial expertise will always be what sets accounting professionals apart. The human element of personalized client service and trust-building cannot be replaced by technology alone. By harnessing the power of AI, accountants can deliver even more for their clients, helping them grow and succeed. 

Topics: Modern Practice


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