Bookkeeping and accounting have historically been viewed as stable careers that will always be in demand. After all, everyone knows that old cliché – taxes are one of the only two certainties in life, with the other one being death.
New technological innovations are challenging the assumption that bookkeepers and accountants will always be in demand. This is because, increasingly, automation technologies are becoming able to take responsibility for mundane accounting tasks that humans used to do, such as reconciling accounts against bank statements.
While we are waiting for the present to catch up to the future, bookkeeping remains a viable career option; but what, exactly, will the future of bookkeeping look like? Let’s examine 3 of the most prominent trends that will influence bookkeepers’ and accountants’ job descriptions in the future:
1. Blockchain-Powered Accounting Technology
Most people associate blockchain technology with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but they actually have vast potential to reshape many industries. In particular, there are many possible applications for blockchain technology in the finance industry. Some banks and accounting firms are already working to integrate blockchain technology into their everyday operations. Soon, it is likely that blockchain-powered accounting systems will be the norm. Aspiring bookkeepers and accountants would do well to learn about this technology and understand its capabilities and benefits.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Accounting
Artificial intelligence is already simplifying the workload involved with bookkeeping and accounting. Accounting software companies, in particular, are incorporating machine learning algorithms into their products in hopes of making them more user friendly and efficient. This has allowed small businesses to assume more of their own bookkeeping duties.
Artificial intelligence is also improving audit quality and efficiency, according to experts at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
Overall, AI could be expected to take over or improve many of the mundane aspects of accountancy.
3. Robots Will Be Robots, and Humans Will Do More Creative Work
Given the quickly accelerating rate of technological change, it would be foolish to assume that the bookkeeper’s role will remain unchanged. This raises questions about how fast the shifts will occur, and what they will look like.
What will happen to bookkeepers and accountants if AI assumes the majority of their workload?
There is much uncertainty about the answers to these questions. There are multiple possibilities, but the likeliest two are as follows: Either bookkeepers and accountants will go the way of the scribe, or their job descriptions will evolve to include sizable amounts of work that AI cannot do.
The likeliest probability is that human bookkeepers and accountants will need to learn how to do more than just mundane bookkeeping and accounting. They will likely be tasked with assuming more creative and managerial type work that artificial intelligence does not have the capability of doing.
One possibility is that some of today’s bookkeepers could potentially transition into finance manager roles. A finance professional who has taken bookkeeping courses and earned a qualification or degree in accounting is already well prepared to assume this sort of role. Significant experience with bookkeeping or accounting would further assist in helping to qualify a candidate for a role as a finance manager.
Depending on the specifics of a particular job description, it might take some additional upskilling or training to fulfil the necessary requirements for the job; but, the truth is that some degree of upskilling is likely to be necessary for every working professional’s continued employability in the future. The challenges of automation technology are not unique to bookkeeping and accounting professionals; the consolidation of jobs is an issue that most people in most industries will have to deal with. With that in mind, independent learning is likely to be one of the most important skills a working professional could acquire; and management skills are also likely to top the list of important competencies to master.
Another possibility pointed out by ICAEW is that bookkeepers and accountants in the future could potentially assume the role of accounting business data analysts or business consultants, for which there is increasing demand.
With the above 3 trends in mind, it is important for aspiring bookkeepers and accountants to understand that they may be best served by viewing their roles as temporary transitional opportunities; if they set their future aspirations high, it could be possible to find a wealth of creative and well-paying future job opportunities that draw on the bookkeeper’s foundational financial expertise.