The Robo Accountant

by Heather Dandridge  28-Oct-2015 at 10:03

The Robo-Accountant?

Recent research from Oxford University has been picked up on the BBC website and turned into a neat gadget which enables you to type in your job title and find out how likely you are to be replaced by a robot or more precisely how likely it is that your role will be automated in the next 20 years.

So we decided to type in some typical job titles of users to see whether we should all be scared! What we found out left us more perturbed about the lack of understanding of the role of the accountant than about the likelihood of automation.

On the surface of it, things look bleak. Out of 365 job roles the following were all in the top 30:

Rank Title Likelihood
4 Financial accounts manager 97.6%
8= Book-keeper and payroll admin 97%
8= Finance Officer 97%
11 Financial Administrative Worker 96.8%
21 Financial and Accounting Technician 95.9%
26= Chartered or Certified Accountant 95.3%
26= Taxation expert 95.3%

Not good news for accountants! However, when you look at the reasons the research gives for a role being more or less susceptible to automation, it becomes apparent that there is a misunderstanding of the role of an accountant:

  • Roles that require empathy are less likely to be automated
  • Role requiring judgement are less likely to be automated
  • Role requiring people to think on their feet and come up with solutions to problems are less likely to be automated

These are all skills that accountants use every day. Perhaps just another example of the lazy assumption that accountants sit in the corner and add stuff up? Far from being at threat, accountants have been at the forefront of automation. Many transactional processes are now performed almost entirely online but the interpretation and analysis of this data remains in the accountants' hands. The IT remains a tool to make us better at our jobs, not a replacement.

All this brings to mind our new course, published in the last few days, If you haven't checked it out yet, take a look at Professional Scepticism by Lisa Weaver. These skills, fundamental to anyone involved in the preparation or audit of financial statements, are a long way from being automated.


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