In my childhood I used to dream that I am playing with my dad (who was a practicing CA) for the entire day.. and a robot sitting in my dad’s chair is doing all his work!!.. It sounded like a fairytale that time.. But today it’s quite a possibility.. All thanks to Artificial Intelligence i.e “AI” or “robots” or “chatbots”.
A Digital Transformation called AI is helping every industry, so Finance & Accounts is no exception. As of now accountants / professionals, are used to computers / softwares to manage accounting, manage tax filings etc. But AI or robots are much smarter than that. They are programmed to handle intelligent work which need not be methodical. For example, guiding on investments. Investments has been a forte of fund managers. But today it is possible for a machine or AIs to make these decisions or help in making investment decisions. AI is widely helpful even in banking industry and stock trading too. JP Morgan Chase in U.S. uses image recognition tool to analyse legal documents and make related decisions. It saved a significant amount of time for the bank. So, it is interesting to see How is the Accounting world using AI.
Use of AI in Finance, Accounts and Audits:
Automating entire accounting process is now real. Many Fintech companies have come up with solutions that will put the transactions in spreadsheets or QuickBooks (Similar to Tally in India) etc or even pull up the Profit and Loss statement in real time. Many apps concentrate only one of the aspect of the finance world like Bank reconciliations, Expense management, Receivable management, procurement or even cashflows.
AI is also steering in the field of auditing. KPMG, Deloitte etc have been using AI in its audit process. (I am little unsure if they use the same AIs in India while auditing. But the possibility can’t be ruled out). The AI analyses the financial statements of the client and identifies the risks for the clients. Big 4s are also evaluating use of AIs in its consulting business with further applications being explored for tax and advisory practices.
Below are few companies / apps in Finance domain where AI is used:
TALK Accounting: The company uses voice-to-data to automate bookkeeping and verify transactions. It needs a picture or image and a few words about the transaction and it will put the transaction in a spreadsheet or QuickBooks. Once it is submitted, the app takes care of the rest. Documents can be stored for up to 10 years and can also be linked to a tax preparer.
Bkper: Bkper is an app for Google cloud. Bkper understands the accounting concepts like debit and credit and can record books. It allows users to create formulas and dashboards. Financial data is archived on Google’s secure servers and can be easily searched for any information.
AppZen: The company created an artificial intelligence solution for fraud detection and expense compliance. The system uses AI to audit 100 percent of employee expenses and then generates an expense report with “hoigh risk” alerts in real time. The app keeps track of receipts, tickets, and other documents to verify and validate every expense.
Smacc: SMACC automates data extraction from invoices, accounting entries, controlling analyses and financial planning on one platform. The solution integrates with leading accounting software and ERP solutions. SMACC’s applications help SMEs and large enterprises to drastically increase efficiency and to generate real-time financial data for decision making.
collectAI: collectAI is a cloud-based software system for collection business. collectAI uses a self-learning algorithm to learn about the case, and then pulls knowledge from previous successful cases and applies those insights to decide how to best approach the situation at hand.
YayPay: The company leverages AI to better predict cash flow with total cash visibility and AR activity tracking.
There are many others like Crunch Accounting, Xero, etc. and many more bots are getting custom made by the tech giants and fintech companies as per the need of the clients. The use of AI has reduced the time and cost involved in a transaction with a human like accuracy. Hence the popularity of robotic apps. Then the question arises:
Will it take-away my job? Should I be worried?
The answer is Yes and No.
When machines make decisions and not just help to make decisions, eyebrows will be raised. The fear in finance professionals is natural. But in my opinion, there is no need to worry as yet. The use of AI in India is relatively limited right now as compared to the Western world, but it is growing. Further, once few things are taken up by the machines, the professionals will be free to take on more challenging or creative tasks. We have witnessed the fear for computers in the past. When computers started doing most of the work, many employees felt redundant except those embraced the change. And the life was full of opportunities.. of different kind.. Similarly, in my opinion, if we embrace this so called 4th Industrial Revolution, we will discover more opportunities.. maybe of different nature but we should certainly not be worried.. There is a long way to go… that’s my opinion.. would love to read your viewpoint in comments.