What does the explosion in AI mean for accountants?

ChatGPT. Google Bard. Bing. Everyone is talking about the new artificial intelligence platforms

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There have been well-publicised tests of ChatGPT passing professional exams – including an ACA Assurance paper – and even producing a tax return. And dozens of articles (like this one) on the impact it might have for business, health, crime, education or human life in general.

At the time of writing, Italy has banned ChatGPT over concerns about privacy, and key figures in tech have called for a pause in further development of this type of AI system. The first defamation lawsuit against OpenAI (owner of ChatGPT) is being prepared by an Australian mayor who was wrongly cited as having served time in prison for bribery. So it’s fair to say that the dust is a long way from settling on the use of AI.

But what does it mean for you as an accountant?

Will AI really change the profession? Is it a threat or a saviour? Or is it just a flash in the pan you can safely ignore?

Personally, I believe that AI will change the profession and that it will be a change for the better. I see it as enabling more human contact, not less. Upskilling, not dumbing down. Enhancing, not diminishing, the reputation of accountants as trusted professionals.

Just some of the ways that AI can help you

(I have focused on ChatGPT as this is what I use, but other platforms will do the same.)

  • Drafting communications. Input the basic information or an outline of what you want to write, and ChatGPT can generate well-structured and coherent content, based on your key points. You can keep adding information and it will remember what you input previously so you can keep on refining until you’re happy. It can save you hours of time in writing letters and emails. 

  • Creating marketing content. I have been using ChatGPT to create marketing material for a while now and it’s been an absolute game-changer, increasing my productivity massively. I input my target audience (such as our ideal client type), the points I want to convey and even the preferred writing style. In seconds, I have something that might take me hours to write manually. And from this one piece of marketing content, I can ask it to produce social media posts, blogs, emails – the list goes on.

  • Automating invoice and payment processing. ChatGPT can help automate these processes by generating invoices, sending payment reminders and tracking payments. You save time and also improve cash flow management for your clients.

  • Assisting with payroll processing. Use ChatGPT to streamline the process by automating calculations, generating payslips and ensuring compliance with employment and tax regulations.

  • Financial analysis and insights. Provide the AI with your client’s data and you’ll get valuable insights into their financial health, trends and potential areas of improvement. This is the kind of analysis that many accountants just don’t have time to do effectively, but it can be massively valuable for your clients.

What are the drawbacks of AI?

Of course, you can’t just send out everything that ChatGPT produces without checking it first. It does make errors and at the moment it only has access to data up to 2021 (though you can input data that’s more up to date, eg on a particular piece of legislation, and it will use this). As with any software, the quality of what you get out of it depends on what you put into it – ‘garbage in, garbage out’ as it’s known in the world of computing. So, you do need to be clear and specific when you’re inputting information.

But even with these drawbacks, using AI in these ways gives you more of that most precious commodity – time.

Time that you can use to do the things that AI can’t do. Building client relationships. Expanding your service offerings. Developing your team. Growing your business. Bringing the human into what you do.

My view is that accountants who don’t utilise the potential of AI will get left behind by those who embrace it. You may not agree with me, of course. But at the very least, you should be aware of its capabilities.

Shane Lukas is Managing Director of AVN Inspiring Accountants. Watch his recent webinar on how accountants can use Chat GPT.

ACCA asks: you have read Shane’s view on the AI challenge above, but what are your views on how AI will affect the accountancy profession? Let us know by sending any comments and feedback or experiences to ukpolicy@accaglobal.com.