As chartered accountants, we have a duty to keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date so that we can lead businesses into the future. With the business environment increasingly challenged, most organisations are turning to new technology as the solution – including accountants.
While this presents greater opportunity, there are also a new set of risks that we must help businesses navigate. Digital technology has been transforming our lives, shaping the way we live and work, but the pace of change and the implications for us all, personally and professionally, have only accelerated.
This is providing many opportunities for businesses – reducing spend on travel and physical office space and opening the potential for greater employee wellbeing and productivity through hybrid working models. But it is also posing challenges, such as increased risk of cyber-attacks and a more fragmented working culture as meetings and team-building become virtual.
This continues a wider and longer-term trend of digital transformation, which has seen the increasingly sophisticated development and use of AI and automation technologies.
Ways of working
But what does all this mean for chartered accountants specifically? How will the roles that we perform be directly impacted, and how can we and should we adapt?
Of course, chartered accountants perform a variety of tasks – not all of which can be replicated by technology – meaning that technology will re-shape rather than replace what we do.
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, demand for accountants is growing and will continue to do so, with the number of jobs for accountants and auditors predicted to grow between 2019–29.
AI and automation, in particular, have inevitable implications for some sections of the human workforce, as these technologies are able to perform some of the more manual and repetitive tasks faster and with greater accuracy.
However, they cannot replicate attributes such as leadership, scepticism or professional judgement – those higher-value skills which chartered accountants remain uniquely-placed to deliver. As a result, it is likely that much of what we do will in fact become even more valuable than before.
So, our roles will not diminish, but they will shift. These technologies will enable us to invest more time on those critical areas. We should not resist these technologies, but seek to understand and embrace them as a means of improving how we interpret data and develop strategy.
In addition to the shifts in our own working practices, we also need to be more aware than ever of the wider influence of digital technology on the economy and on those businesses we serve – from the benefits of cost reductions and improved efficiency, to the challenges of increased risk exposure and new regulations.
The traditional business marketplace is shifting, with exponential growth in virtual goods, and this will impact many of the business models with and within which we work.
The UAE’s post-pandemic recovery is incorporating this thinking, seeking to develop the talent for the future and with a long-term plan to be a leader in emerging technologies through its Digital Economy Strategy.
The move towards an increasingly digital future will mean the emergence of new opportunities and risks, and with that a need for the expertise of chartered accountants to ensure that these are considered and managed effectively.
Specifically, as the UAE liberalises its approach to cryptocurrencies, chartered accountants will need to act in an advisory role to mitigate the risk of money laundering and other illicit activities.
Future is now
Technology has long been at the heart of audit and accountancy, and will be so more than ever. As digital technologies continue to evolve, so will our profession and the businesses we work in and with.
Chartered accountants will need to build and maintain their expertise and be willing to adapt, in order to support economic growth, deliver even greater value to business and ensure that we can continue to apply our high technical and ethical standards in a digital world.