The Future of Finance & Accounting Careers

January 30, 2023

The importance of an accounting and financial presence at any business worth its salt cannot be overstated or underrated. As accounting manages a company’s record-keeping process and financial reporting, finance analyzes said data to help guide management to make the critical decisions and drive their business forward. Both departments share a symbiotic relationship, working in tandem to ensure their parent company remains solvent, profitable, lucrative and in the black. 

Though they’re mainstays for small companies to large enterprises, recent years have seen a series of technological disruptors question the validity of human manpower in both respective fields — placing their future stability in question. 

What does the future hold for careers in accounting and finance? Have they become endangered species in the business world, or are they destined to survive and thrive for years to come? Our take: A&F (our snappy abbreviation for Accounting and Finance) is here to stay. Here’s why … and here’s how to keep it that way.

Automation, AI Impacting the Industry

A recent poll of 136 accountants revealed some doubt over the future of their roles in the industry going forward. While nearly half of respondents claimed to be somewhat to totally confident in the security of their positions, 30.1 percent admitted they were “not at all confident.” 

What explains the insecurity of nearly one-third of respondents? For one, the A&F industry is rapidly changing and evolving with advances in technology, presenting a series of challenges to workers who may feel that automation will eventually render their roles obsolete.

In the pre-computer and Internet age, paper ledgers, adding machines and later, calculators, were the tools of the trade for accountants and bookkeepers. Desktop computers and the introduction of Intuit and Microsoft Excel in the 1980s, and later Quickbooks in the 1990s, allowed finance and accounting staff to more efficiently and accurately do their jobs, but not enough to replace the need for manual manpower.

Is that narrative changing in 2023? Smart accounting technology continues to transform, reshape and redefine the industry as we’ve come to know it.

Some emerging technologies with a strong industry presence include:

  • Cloud-based computing systems allow real-time access to resources and data, and can be continually updated and monitored, enabling accounting staff to analyze said data and make more accurate, informed decisions.
  • Conventional accounting tasks handled manually by staff, such as audits, tax prep and payroll, are becoming nearly fully automated. One example is robotic process automation, or RPA, meant to reduce audit and contract processing times.
  • Blockchain technology, with roots in cryptocurrency, also has its place in accounting and finance, enabling users to create and immediately access accounting ledgers, create smart contracts and record transactions, according to a report by Maryville University.

Automation in accounting has been made easier by the development of APIs, or application programming interfaces, which allow different pieces of software to interact with your accounting system,” according to Floqast.

Thanks to APIs as part of software such as Expensify and Dext, bookkeepers can save countless hours and days on tedious data entry tasks and other responsibilities, such as revenue management, cash disbursement and other general accounting operations. “Automation,” notes the blog, “streamlines processes and converts inefficient, error-prone, labor-intensive processes into efficient, error-free processes that need very little human intervention. Automation doesn’t just save time, but it also gives you more accurate numbers.”

Does this mean accountants and bookkeepers will find themselves out of work and replaced by a team of robots? Not anytime soon, according to experts. A report from McKinsey opines that several A&F activities are still difficult to automate and need the human touch to succeed, such as auditing, risk management and external relations. According to McKinsey, business development cannot be automated at all. Advancements in technology, just as they have been for decades, are meant to make our jobs easier, not replace them outright.

The Reality of Artificial Intelligence

What is AI? “Artificial intelligence,” according to TechTarget, “is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.”

How does AI fit into A&F? It’s one more way automation is augmenting the industry in many exciting ways. “AI in accounting is primarily about data and automation,” according to the CMA Exam Academy. “AI-fueled technologies and applications like machine learning can drive new and improved practices around data analytics,” as well as improve audit and financial processes.

AI is built around algorithms which, as they’re fed more data, can improve over time, helping them better serve their function to handle repetitive tasks once tasked to a human worker. 

Accountants, in particular, can reap three main benefits from AI, including invisible accounting, enabling them to engage in more strategic decision making; continuous auditing with no gaps in reason or precision; and real-time financial visibility through active insight

Adapting To Change

As technology and AI advance to become part of the fabric of accounting and finance, so does our need to evolve along with them. Here are some ways A&F professionals can better market themselves to best thrive among automated processes:

  • Network with cross-functional teams and colleagues (think sales, IT, others outside your focus business unit) to expand and build your skill set, and participate in (or even start) cross-functional teams to learn and add to your role
  • Adopt a learning mindset and never stop “learning on the job” about new technologies and trends related to your industry. Online learning courses are also a helpful way to continue your education and keep growing as a professional.
  • Expose yourself to data and technology on the job and seek opportunities at work to learn about data management and science. Gaining insight from these colleagues outside your department better equips you to work with data and information within an accounting and finance framework.
  • Move your career forward by striving to expand your work experience through new, different projects and assignments. Talk with your boss about diversifying into new projects, and keep your resume updated to reflect any new skills.

“There’s no question Finance will continue to offer significant career opportunities, but those opportunities may be different than today’s,” notes a study by Deloitte. “So it’s important that your people understand what the future may hold. As finance organizations become flatter and more dependent on technology, traditional career paths will become less linear. Those paths might even extend outside of Finance. Instead of moving from a contributor role in accounts receivable to a management role in accounting, a future career might evolve circuitously. A financial planning analyst might, for instance, move into IT to round out their technology skills. From there, they may move into commercial or marketing analytics — and then back into Finance with the goal of pursuing a business-unit CFO role.”

What Does the Future Hold? Connect With Pinnacle To Find Out

Just a few short years ago, experts predicted — with AI-powered tech, no less — that accountants stood a 95 percent chance of losing their jobs to robots. How much more wrong could that estimate be? The World Economic Forum has a much more optimistic outlook, saying that AI will actually increase human employment by 58 million jobs by 2026, and A&F jobs are no exception. By expanding your skill set and working alongside the benefits that technology brings, human expertise and technological advancement create a great partnership. 

How can you jump start your career path? Contact Pinnacle. Our team specializes in sourcing the most sought-after financial, accounting and tech opportunities to find you the right fit to advance your career.

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