On 25 October, Accountancy Europe hosted an hour-long webinar on the new role for accountants in the digital era.
Accountancy Europe CEO Olivier Boutellis-Taft opened the webinar with a reminder that technology is changing every sector of the economy. As a result, the role of accountants is also evolving. The webinar’s aim was to offer insights on the accountant’s new role. Accountants need to work with technology to meet client needs and become more strategic partners, improving their services by focusing on the needs of people. He highlighted the Technology Hub, a repository of member initiatives with technology and invited members to submit more examples.
Next, AI researcher Martin Scheid from the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, provided very clear examples on the different roles that humans and AI can perform well. AI can crunch numbers and identify patterns, meanwhile humans are better at finding context for that data and understanding what to do should there be anomalies in the data. Moving forward, accountants need to use their strengths alongside AI to provide an even better client experience.
Ray Baxter, CEO of SME-focussed accountancy firm Baxterworld Ltd, highlighted that currently 2/3rds of his clients use cloud accounting systems and he intends to transition the rest shortly. This flexibility allows him to provide services across borders and remotely. He sees the role of accountants as growing to become more strategic, similar to that of a CFO. Accounting Firms will need to become more and more tech savvy so that they can survive in the new fast changing environment. Technology, rather than traditional accounting skills, will set practices apart.
The final speaker, Eleni Kanelli, Accountancy Europe’s Advocacy Manager shared an update from the EU legislative side. She mentioned how the EU’s focus is the Digital Single Market and that this will have far-reaching effects on the accountancy profession. The European Commission aims for an open market where it is easy for businesses and people to operate as effectively anywhere in Europe as it is at home. Specifically, they want to create digital contract rules, simpler VAT declaration procedures, free flow of data and supporting FinTech development. She touched on a digital solutions Directive and on a digital tax proposal. The digital tax proposal looks to create an EU solution in the absence of global guidance on this issue.