What does 2019 have in store for the Accountancy profession?

What does 2019 have in store for the Accountancy profession? Share

It’s the beginning of the new year, so what better way to start it than by looking forward to what developments we can expect from the profession this year, and what rumours there are about how things might be changing.

Technology

Over the last year we saw huge developments in technology, and there are many digital tools now optimising processes and aiding paperless accounting. Yet as technology continues to advance and further automate numerous functions, there’s no danger of us being replaced by robots any time soon!

In saying that, it’s believed that by 2020, labour-intensive tasks such as tax preparation, payroll, audits and banking could be fully automated – a trend that’s considered the greatest transformation since the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping.

But discussions of a robot revolution are certainly seeming more sensational than factual. In the real world, the technologies transforming the financial industry will in no way render the human factor redundant.

Instead, technologies like the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain will empower accountants — and the entire financial services industry — by reducing manual data entry and improving the speed, accuracy and quality of data. Accountants who embrace new technological developments quickly are likely to be those who succeed in the long term.

Harnessing the power of the cloud

According to Accounting Today, by 2026, the global market for accounting software will have a value of $11.8 billion. With cloud accounting and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and the ability to access financial data from any internet-enabled device, virtualisation is fast becoming the new norm.

The growing ecosystem of applications that integrate with accounting platforms has also proven to be efficient by connecting and streamlining back-office processes for a wide range of businesses and industries, so much so that we don’t really notice it – everything just works.

The rise of QuickBooks

Emerging accountancy software brand QuickBooks Online reached 2 million subscribers worldwide in 2017, with the figures for 2018 to be announced shortly (though we’re expecting them to be high). Of those, there’s still a substantial user base for QuickBooks Desktop, so given that the target users for QuickBooks Online are small to medium-sized businesses, accountants may have some work to do in introducing businesses to the cloud – if that’s their preferred option.

AI for data exchange

Some companies are now fully embracing smart contracts and blockchain to exchange secure information between businesses and lenders. AI components are then used to verify the information and ensure that both parties see the information in near-real time.

While algorithms will continue to get more powerful and efficient at compiling big data, computers are only great transactional machines. They can’t replace the interpretive capacity of the human mind. Technology will give us access to better data, but accountants are the ones who’ll have to apply this information to the real world to provide crucial business insights and intelligence.

All roads lead to Blockchain

At last year’s Accounting and Finance Show L.A., blockchain and smart contracts dominated conversations.

A single-ledger technology, blockchain is a delivery method that lets users from several sources access the same information in near-real time. For instance, if a business’ risk profile is hashed (tied) to the blockchain, the business and its potential lenders or investors can all access the profile simultaneously.

If a change is made by one party, everyone with access can see this change as soon as it’s validated. Transactions that used to take hours or days will now take minutes or seconds. This speed also comes with greater security and transparency. Auditing, compliance and reconciliation will all be faster and more accurate. Now you’ll just need to factor that into your costings!

Improving cash flow

As administrative tasks become automated, forward-thinking accountants can build value through services like cash-flow consulting. Time and again, cash flow is cited as a business-killer. For accountants who seize the opportunity to turn better and more accurate data into actionable insights, the future is more than assured.

As we’ve been saying for years: human accountants should never be underrated. The specialised training accountants receive will both gain and add value as part of the fourth industrial revolution. People create ideas and build businesses, and accountants are needed as trusted advisers. The technology may change, but the dynamics will remain the same and more than likely strengthen.

If you or your colleagues are looking to advance in your training this year, give us a call.

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