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The Future of Accounting – Will Accountants Become Obsolete?


Before the advent of computers and Microsoft Excel in the 1990s, the processes for accounting and book-keeping were extremely time consuming and repetitive. Accountants and book-keepers had to perform data entry and record financial transactions manually with ledger sheets, pencils, and calculators, often taking days to complete accounting tasks. Now, thanks to technology, many accounting processes have been automated, enabling certified accountants to complete their work more effectively and with less error. 

Nevertheless, an increasing number of accounting processes are being automated due to the introduction of cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning.  Subsequently, this has raised questions about the continued relevance of the accounting profession and attaining accounting certifications in the face of rapid technological developments. What does this mean for current and future accountants, and how can they remain competitive and in-demand?

How Has Automation Impacted Accounting?

For much of history, technology’s primary goal has been and continues to be to improve the way humans live, work, and play. When it comes to automating accounting activities, it is no different. Certified accountants can now easily automate procedures including cash disbursement, accounts receivable/ payable, revenue control, and financial statements with accounting software, which were previously repetitive and prone to human error when performed manually. This allows accountants to offer improved services by spending less time on routine tasks and more time on value-added tasks like analysing and identifying patterns in a company’s financial data, developing insights, and proposing business solutions.

In fact, detecting fraud and discrepancies in a business’ financial statements have also been made much easier thanks to advanced programming and AI in accounting software. In addition, machine learning’s ability to process large quantities of past and present data to provide reliable future forecasts will be beneficial for improving a business’ scalability. Consequently, automation has provided numerous benefits in the accounting sphere.

Will Accountants Become Obsolete? 

It is no question that technology and automation has made routine accounting processes much more efficient, but that does not necessarily mean accountants will become irrelevant in the future. This is because an accountant’s job, especially a chartered accountant, is so much more than crunching numbers. They also have to perform risk management, auditing, and business development – all of which accountants were trained to do as part of earning their accounting certifications. These are the activities that are the most difficult to automate but also offer the most value to companies.

As automation takes care of the technical aspects of an accountant’s job, there will be an increasing need for certified accountants to tap on their problem-solving, critical thinking, and relationship-building skills. With their expertise in interpreting financial data and understanding current market trends, accountants provide solutions that help businesses achieve their goals, as they cannot be replaced or replicated by technology. 

In essence, rather than rendering an accountant’s job obsolete, automation has the potential to transform their job scope. As technology becomes an integral part of businesses, chartered accountants can improve their employability by mastering accounting software and developing competence in areas such as data analytics and information systems. In addition, they should also develop their soft skills, particularly in critical thinking and problem solving, so that they can provide meaningful business solutions for their clients. As long as an accountant is adaptive and practices flexibility, technology can be a powerful tool in enhancing an accountant’s role in any organisation. 

ICAEW South-East Asia offers chartered accountant courses that will equip you with essential knowledge and skills in accounting, business and finance, and is recognised by organisations all over the world. Contact us today to learn more.