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AI in Accounting: Will Accountants Be Replaced or Reimagined?


As we go from automation to augmentation, we look at the evolution of accounting and the role of Bachelor in Accounting programmes.

By Professor Dr Ainin Sulaiman
Dean, Faculty of Business

In this article, we explore the potential impact of AI on the accounting industry and how Bachelor in Accounting programmes can prepare graduates for the future. The recent rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has marked a turning point that’s left us all contemplating the full extent of the changes that lie ahead. While the precise impact of AI remains unknown, one thing is certain: change is inevitable.

Rapid and Widespread AI Adoption.

The use of AI is becoming widespread in many industries and functions. A study by Oxford University claims that a massive 40% of jobs will be automated by 2033. Business process automation is now a common feature in modern businesses and is being heavily adopted in finance and accounting – traditionally a specialised field. Despite concerns about job loss, the impact of AI on the industry could be different than what is often projected.

Shifting Roles – An Emphasis on Leadership and Analysis.

Automated data recording has greatly benefited accounting and auditing. It’s improving record-keeping accuracy, and cloud-based accounting software saves time and reduces errors. Automating repetitive tasks has liberated the amount of time accountants would have otherwise devoted to them. This gives accountants more time to focus on insightful analysis and interpretation – rather than usual routine tasks. The role of accountants is changing. If anything, it has been enriched due to technology.

Demand for Social and People Skills.

The rise of automation also highlights the importance of upgrading people skills. Accountants who develop strong communication, leadership, adaptability, and customer service skills will remain competitive in the profession and enhance their overall value to clients.

As automation in the field increases, accountants will have more time to interact with clients and understand their needs. They should develop excellent communication, interpersonal, and negotiation skills to effectively communicate financial data to clients and collaborate with them on solutions.

Implications on Accounting Education.

As the accounting industry evolves, the future is poised to be a hybrid of technological advancement and human expertise. Inevitably, this shift will have significant implications for universities and the way we educate future accountants. To keep up with the industry’s changing demands, universities must emphasise courses that teach communication, leadership, and analytical skills. Students must also learn technology and data analysis to better understand how AI and automation are impacting the field. By doing so, students can better understand how to work with AI and automation tools, preparing them for the types of tasks they will encounter in the workforce.

Although the extent to which AI will impact the accounting industry remains uncertain, it is evident that AI and automation are already catalysing a significant transformation in the field, with more innovative changes on the horizon. As the role of accountants continues to evolve, universities have the opportunity to lead the way and adapt their more traditional Bachelor in Accounting, Masters, or other accounting programmes to equip students with the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry.

The implementation of AI and automation in the accounting industry could present an opportunity for accountants to adopt more strategic roles. This shift could lead to greater job satisfaction while allowing accountants to add more value to their clients and organisations. Such developments in the field could bring about significant improvements, empowering accountants to become leaders and visionaries and propelling the industry towards a bright future.

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