How Finance Professionals Should Prepare for the Robot Apocalypse

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Mar 22, 2019 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Trends, Job Search Tips, Candidate, Accounting and Finance

As the accounting industry is evolving, so are the roles of professionals in the field. Though the initial thought of robots entering the accounting world may seem threatening, accountants can rest assured knowing that their jobs are not in jeopardy.

Most young people who enter the accounting field go into it with a practical head on their shoulders. The common thought process is that the industry is stable and jobs will not be going anywhere. Everyone needs an accountant at some point in their lives, whether it be for personal guidance or help with their business. Indeed, the need for financial help will always be there. However, technology is changing the way the industry provides its services. Automation and machine learning are among the latest tech advancements sweeping businesses. According to research presented by McKinsey & Company, the financial sector could see 43 percent of its workers’ activities become automated.

At first, this number seems shockingly high. However, it is not a secret that those in finance tend to put in more hours than the average working professional. In 2017, there was a study done that found the following:

  • almost 46 percent of accountants averaged over 13 additional work days per year
  • one in 10 accountants worked seven days per week

When someone is spending more time doing work than using it for personal activities, it is very difficult to be successful in both aspects of life. Automation has the potential to provide these professionals with a healthier work-life balance. It might be a tough transition at first, but the shift in the industry will ultimately yield positive results for all parties.

The common stereotype for an accountant is that they sit in an office and crunch numbers all day, pounding away on a calculator. Interestingly enough, this is not what they were trained to do, but it seems that tedious tasks have become a large part of their workloads. By spending so much time on data entry and being buried in spreadsheet reconciliations, the resulting work itself becomes more susceptible to human error. This ends up wasting more of the professional’s time in having to research and pinpoint where the error occurred. Such busy work prevents these accounting and financial analysts from utilizing their true talents, which would result in better service overall for their clients.

In an effort to relieve finance industry professionals of these menial tasks, data management solutions have been introduced. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, such as Oracle, having been implemented to alleviate these burdens. Though they may not have to deal with physical paper, the sheer amount of data still looms. Just the task of transferring data to and from computers, alone, is daunting and time-consuming.

Accountants and financial analysts are more valuable to their clients when freed up to analyze data and offer strategic recommendations. The use of automation and robots will provide analysts this opportunity. Without having to spend so much time doing busy work, these trained professionals can get back to doing what they are best at doing. Not only that, their previous tasks will be more streamlined with the robots and ERP software working together. This means that the process, as a whole, will become more efficient and accountants will provide information to their clients much quicker.

The learning curve and transition for such an ambitious industry shift will take some time. The potential results, however, are worth the initial growing pains. Robots will not take the place of finance professionals, as they are still needed to manage the new tech solutions and provide analyses and strategic moves for individual clients and business clients. The change will, ultimately, make organizations run more smoothly.

While it might be tough getting used to a new way of doing things, one thing is for certain: accountants and financial analysts should not worry about losing their jobs to robots. If anything, the shift toward automation will keep their roles intact, while offering them a better work-life balance and allowing them to put their analytical talents to good use. The timing is interesting, as millennials continue to saturate the workforce. Young professionals are not too keen on wasting their time doing menial tasks, so the implementation of new tech advancements will attract new blood to these tech-savvy organizations. A company that is not afraid of evolving, especially when it adds value to clients and the business, itself, will continue to grow and cultivate loyalty amongst its workers.

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