Automation is doing most of our repetative tasks. Are we at risk?

Rise of the machines: Will automation and A.I. make accountants extinct?

The waves of digital disruption have crashed onto a variety of industries; think of how Uber and Airbnb have respectively upended the transport and hospitality sectors. Those same technological forces threaten not just sectors but jobs, raising lots of interesting questions about what the future holds for the finance function.

Two researchers from Oxford University, Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, wrote a paper called The Future of Employment. Now widely quoted, the research estimated the probability of how computerisation and artificial intelligence (A.I.) could affect 702 specific job types.

If you’re feeling lucky, you might want to visit the website willrobotstakemyjob.com. We already took a peek, and it tells us the depressing news that bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks have a 98% probability of automation. Accountants and auditors stand a 94% chance of their jobs becoming obsolete. Or, as the site plainly puts it: “you are doomed”.

The profession itself realises this change is happening. In an article for City A.M. last year, the ACCA chief executive Helen Brand wrote of how accounting skills had changed from what was needed just 10 years ago. “And in the next decade, things are likely to change even faster and more dramatically as the global economy continues to evolve at an ever-quickening pace,” she said.

She went on to identify seven key qualities that finance professionals will need into the future. They are: technical and ethical competencies; intelligence; creativity; digital quotient; emotional intelligence; vision; and experience.

The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed business leaders and unearthed a strong desire to automate. Almost two out of three are planning some initiative to increase automation in their department, and many of them are confident in being able to identify opportunities for automation.

“While automation in finance is nothing new, machine-learning techniques that are currently emerging will have new, unprecedented consequences for financial processing and oversight. It will be the finance leaders’ task in the coming years to understand what those capabilities mean for their organisation, and how best to deploy them in their firm’s best interest,” the EIU said.

With finance roles likely to be in flux over the coming years, will your business be disrupted or can you harness A.I. and automation to your advantage?

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