The future isn’t coming – it’s now. In countless business sectors and professions, current technological developments and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence are turning the status quo on its ear and prompting us to fundamentally rethink how things are done. And the accounting profession is no exception.
Buzzwords like fintech and blockchain may be relatively new to our ears, but they are worming their way into our day-to-day conversations, where they are likely to remain. And for good reason. In the past few years, fintech has taken the industry by storm, yielding a multitude of tools and applications that are easily accessible to organizations and relieving accountants of certain routine, albeit necessary, non-value-added tasks, among them payables and receivables management, cash flow reports and projections, and account reconciliation. When it comes to these recurring activities, these lightning-fast, efficient and easy-to-use solutions inevitably outperform their all-too-human counterparts.
Blockchain is poised to disrupt the accounting profession to the same degree. Decentralized, virtually impenetrable, transparent, always up to date and easy to access, this digitized public ledger enables organizations to record the varied and numerous elements of a shared transaction. Because each transaction is validated by consensus by the two parties involved rather than through, say, a financial institution, there is no longer any need for an intermediary. Traceability, both internal and external, is thereby facilitated, and the resulting access to a huge volume of data and transactions translates to a permanent, real-time audit of an organization’s activities. These are among the most obvious advantages of the technology. But what will this new reality mean for accountants and auditors? Are fintech and blockchain putting their very existence in jeopardy?
For members of the accounting profession: opportunity, hands down! As these innovations emerge and their use becomes more and more widespread, traditional accounting tasks will gradually give way to other activities that are vastly more rewarding and more lucrative. The quantity of financial information available will allow accountants to redirect their efforts to value-added tasks, with a greater focus on the strategic development of the organizations they serve. The technological revolution will require accounting professionals to develop new skills so they can analyze the terabytes of information at their disposal to deliver better budgetary and financial forecasts and other tangible benefits.
The challenges ahead may be daunting, but overcoming challenges is what accountants do best!