So, will AI be the end of the world (or at least the accounting profession)?
You’d have to be a hermit without an internet connection to have missed all the noise being made about ChatGPT and other AI bots. In some people’s minds, they are harbingers of the end of the world.
They are certainly interesting. It is that interest that has seen the fastest take-up of a technology in history although, I suspect, being free and interesting has something to do with that. It seems to me there are lots of people playing with it to determine the impact on how they may operate in the future.
In some people’s minds, they could signal the end of search engines. Having consumed 30% of the internet means they can interpret the web in a far more intelligent fashion and interact with the user to enhance the information delivered.
So at a simple level, you can interact with it, ask questions, and get it to do something. In a more sophisticated fashion, you can feed it some data and get it to analyse it.
Some accountants have gotten excited about its ability to code transactions or analyse financial results. However, we already have some pretty sophisticated tools to do these things and from what I have seen the analysis that the current version of the AI bots come up with are pretty basic. However, it will only improve as more and more sophisticated models with bigger datasets are rolled out.
It might be in advisory where it will initially deliver some advantages. Posing questions about a particular issue (such as a tax issue) could be interesting. In a way, it provides another set of eyes looking at a problem. At no cost, you might find some ideas that may enable you to improve the advice that you would give a client.
Would I rely upon it? No. You need to treat what is served up to you the same as you would treat research delivered to you by a junior staff member. It may contain some helpful elements but it is likely to contain errors.
We are already seeing the IT providers starting to add AI functionality to their applications. This is perhaps where we will see some substantial efficiency gains delivered. Automating responses to client queries might be one example. Automating basic tasks inside the firm is another.
Another area of some substantial gains might be in auditing – looking for anomalies in transactions for example or perhaps assessing risk.
At the simplest level, it may help with the written word. Writing blogs for example. Below is a blog that ChatGPT wrote for me from the question “Sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm”. It’s interesting but the ideas aren’t that sophisticated in my opinion, but they’re also not dumb.
Everyone should at least fire it up and have a play. Try different things. There will be uses found that no one has even thought of yet.
Think of it as your personal cyborg who can help enhance your performance. I am firmly of the view that this technology will not replace accountants but it will definitely enhance them.
CHATGPT’s sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm (unedited)
Running an accounting firm requires more than just crunching numbers and filing taxes. To truly stand out in a crowded marketplace, you need to have sophisticated ideas and strategies that set you apart from the competition. Here are some sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm:
- Emphasise value over price: Many accounting firms compete on price, which can be a race to the bottom. Instead, focus on the value you provide to clients. Highlight your expertise, your personalised service, and the ways you can help clients save money and grow their businesses. By emphasising value, you can attract clients who are willing to pay a premium for your services.
- Leverage technology: Technology is transforming the accounting industry, and firms that don’t embrace it risk falling behind. Consider using cloud-based accounting software that allows clients to access their financial information from anywhere, or incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into your processes. By using technology to streamline your operations and provide better service, you can gain a competitive edge.
- Offer specialised services: While many accounting firms offer a broad range of services, consider specialising in a particular niche. For example, you could focus on serving a specific industry, such as healthcare or real estate, or offer specialised services like forensic accounting or business valuation. By becoming an expert in a particular area, you can attract clients who are looking for specialised knowledge and expertise.
- Develop a strong brand: Your brand is more than just a logo or a tagline – it’s the way you present your firm to the world. Invest in developing a strong brand that reflects your values, your expertise, and your unique selling proposition. Consider hiring a branding agency to help you develop a cohesive visual identity and messaging strategy.
- Focus on client relationships: At the end of the day, accounting is a people business. Focus on building strong relationships with your clients by providing personalised service, being responsive to their needs, and going above and beyond to help them achieve their goals. By building a loyal client base, you can create a steady stream of referrals and repeat business.
- Invest in your team: Your team is the backbone of your firm, so it’s important to invest in their professional development and wellbeing. Provide opportunities for training and education, offer competitive compensation and benefits, and create a positive work culture that fosters collaboration and innovation.
In conclusion, running an accounting firm requires more than just technical expertise – it requires a strategic approach to business. By emphasising value over price, leveraging technology, offering specialised services, developing a strong brand, focusing on client relationships, and investing in your team, you can create a successful and sustainable accounting firm that stands out in a crowded marketplace.