New research from FreeAgent, provider of cloud accounting software to small business owners and accountants, has revealed that the majority (70%) of UK accountants believe automation will provide them with more time to work with their clients.
The survey suggests that UK accountants are generally optimistic about the impact that new technology will have on the profession, with almost one in four accountants (24%) thinking automation and technology will cover all or most of their work within the next five years. However, some developments in financial technology remain underappreciated, since almost three quarters (72%) of respondents said they did not think small business clients understood the concept of Open Banking or the benefits it could bring them.
Thanks to increasingly sophisticated developments in technology and artificial intelligence (AI), many sectors in the UK are now considering the impact that automation could have on them and the accountancy profession is no exception. All of the accountants surveyed said they believed that some portion of accountancy work will be automated within the next five years, while 41% said that they did not expect to be doing the same day-to-day tasks at work in five years’ time.
The poll also found that 66% of accountants said they would feel comfortable offering additional advisory services such as financial planning and tax advice, brought about by advances in automation and technology. More than one in five (21%) also said that, if it were possible, they would “definitely” run their practice without having to meet or deal with clients in person, while 23% said they would either “maybe” or “definitely” allow a robot to deal with their clients for them.
Other aspects of their industry that accountants feel will be impacted by technology:
Almost half (42%) of accountants surveyed said they thought they could save between 1-2 hours per day if their simpler work tasks and processes were automated, while just 3% said they didn’t think automation would save them any time at all
One in ten (10%) believed that automation could save them more than 4 hours each day
Around half (51%) said that automation would save them from stress or boredom because they wouldn’t have to deal with basic data entry tasks
58% of respondents believe that clients will demand or expect better interpersonal skills from accountants over the next five years
80% said that they expect deeper integrations between software and banks
Almost 1 in 10 (8%) of accountants would let artificial intelligence make senior management decisions for their practice and 12% would use AI to give tax advice to clients
A look at Open Banking:
When it comes to Open Banking, allowing access and control of consumer banking and financial accounts through third-party applications, two thirds (66%) said that the technology will have a positive impact on accountancy over the next five years, while just 3% thought it will have a negative impact. A large proportion (72%) do not think their clients understand what Open Banking is, suggesting more work needs to be done in order to fully inform the small business sector about the benefits that this framework will offer them in coming years.
Ed Molyneux, co-founder and CEO at FreeAgent said, “It’s a fairly turbulent time in the accountancy sector right now, with the UK economy in flux due to the coronavirus and a potentially chaotic Brexit looming. Despite this, the insights from our survey show that while many accountants working in the UK today have a positive outlook on the work they do and the services they provide, they are simultaneously preparing to future-proof their careers. Perhaps even more importantly, these new frontiers of technology seem to be eagerly anticipated by those in the profession.
While the small business sector prepares to recover from the damage of Covid-19 and the likely economic downturn that will arise from the pandemic, forward-thinking attitudes will be crucial in shaping the landscape of the accountancy profession for years to come. Accountants who embrace technology to not only help them save time, but offer additional services to those they have done traditionally, are those that will be at the forefront of this recovery.”