When I surf around Quora, regarding the Future of Accountants and the Future of Finance professionals like CA, CS, CWA, I usually come across not so positive opinions about these degrees. I find that these debates on whether the Finance will be automated or Whether there will remain any shine of such Finance Professionals are mostly concluded in saying that the work of Accounting , Auditing and Compliances will be overtaken by Technologies and there will be no use of such professionals.
In midst of such pessimism that floats around regarding the Future of Such Professionals , If someone asks me on my view for “What is the Future of Finance Professionals and Accountants? “, then I have a very optimistic view towards future of these Professions.
But, this Optimism come with Caveat. The caveat is that The Finance Professional have a bright Future , provided that these Professionals are ready to Upgrade and Upskill themselves with the growing and ever changing Business Requirements of the Clients. We all will agree that the External Environment in which our Client operates is changing as never before . Things which were a trend 10 years earlier are now a Vintage.
Some Examples of such Then & Now are as Under:
So, these are some Drastic Changes we have seen in our Environment. Now, lets come to our Finance World.
When we compare on how we used to work in a CA /CS/CMA office and the way we used to handle client Data 10 years back compared to the way we handle the Client Data now , then we will not fmd any such Drastic Change in that.
May be we have started storing more details in Scanned Copies , and Maintaining Excel files instead of Manual Registers. Also, We might have started using the Cloud Storage and also credits to the COVID19 which has further pushed us to move to remote working .
But, let’s look at the Quality of the Services which we have been offering to our Clients. If we talk of majority of our firms, they have been offering the same Accounting , Book Keeping and Return Filing Services to the client. The VAT returns (which were a much Simpler tasks) have now changed to GST return , which are a bit complex affair and involves more effort and manhours. But , from the point of view of a client, the services from a CA/CS/CMA are pretty much the same and nothing much has changed on that aspect.
So, Don’t you think that the services which are offered by a CA to their clients should have more features into it. Each year when we buy a new Smart Phone , we want it to be loaded with a ton of features more than what we had last time (i.e. 2 years back). But, when we talk about the services of a Finance Professional , we are least concerned about the feature / Value addition we provide to the client , but we
always have reasons to crib about How the Client is never willing to pay fees on time, and how there is under cutting of fees and increasing competition for the Private Practitioners.
So, let me ask you, when was the last time we have thought about our client business , its growth trajectory and have tried to give some advices to the Client on how they can decrease their working capital requirement, how Interest can be leveraged, what Tax Advantages can be claimed , what is their Inventory Turnover Ratio and how the same can be improved. Have we ever tried in giving them a regular MIS about their old inventory, Old and aged receivables , Monitoring the interest cost and how the same can be reduced?
The Society Doesn’t expect a CA only to make Data Entries in Tally and File the returns on Time.
A Chartered Accountant is one of a rare professional who has in depth idea of how a Company runs, the metrices / ratios of analyzing the business and making the diagnosis of what is wrong with the Business and also on how the same can be improved. I don’t find there can be any other professionals who is taught with such a versatility and has a comprehensive / in depth knowledge of Taxation, Law, Accounting , Financial Management , Cost Analysis and also Business Strategy.
But, despite having an expert level knowledge of all such fields, what we actually end up doing is Data Entry for the Account Making and filing the return timely , there is no much value adding proposition that a CA do for the client.
Now, lets Look At What Goes on In Practical World. When I interact with the Professionals in Practice and discuss with them on the aspect on adding value to the client, I get a very similar response regarding , the huge Quantum of work and limited Time and resources.
A typical Response I get from a Practicing Professional is “We understand that We should add value to Client and not just number crunching. But , there is so much to do and client is not ready to pay us more for the additional analysis that we want to do. So , despite having an intention of doing so, we are unable to work towards adding value for our clients”
So, I agree that the level of compliances has increased but the fees that we receive from the client has not increased in the same linearity.
So, what is the solution?? Should we then continue to provide only the bare minimum services to the client in plea that fees are not justifiable or instead we can focus on how to ensure that we involve ourselves only in the value addition activities and try to automate the Non value adding activities.
To give a small example, if a client comes to us for Accounting and Book Keeping Work, then the first thing that we need to do is to create a New Company in TALLY, create ledgers and then assign an article for making all the sales , purchase entries in TALLY. Now, here the Sales entries , purchase entries, which are made from a data stored in Excel File is merely a Non Value adding Job for the Client and also something which just doesn’t require much of technical knowledge. So, such repetitive tasks can very easily be automated using some simple Programming skills so that our Article don’t have to invest his time on doing such NON VALUE ADDITION work and also we can free our time from doing such repetitive tasks.
Now, The first reaction I get when I tell Finance Students/ CA Professionals to Learn Programming or Coding are:
1. Why not leave this coding stuffs for those who are actually Good at it………….. Like for the Computer Science Engineers.
2. We are fmance professionals and hence we should focus on being technically sound and building our Domain knowledge , rather than building python bots
3. Is it not enough reading those bulky Income tax books ,Companies acts , Ind AS and GST , that you want us to learn the Coding Syntax as well?
People say “A CA/CS/CMA/MBA was never meant for coding, and Coding was never meant for CA/CS/CMA/MBA.”
I fully agree, no doubts, but the Important word in this statement to focus is “was”. A CA was never meant to do coding, but with the level of Automation that is going around, and more specifically in Finance field, it is going to be a basic requirement for Finance professionals to have a working level knowledge of coding. It is most probably going to be a must have skill (like the Excel in today’s time). Stereotypically, accounting professionals are straightlaced number-crunchers. But, its high time now that we change the perspective so that the Finance professional are viewed as one who can offer strategic insight and advice on compliance, cost savings and mitigate threats within the company. And to do this, automation is a great weapon (and probably the only one).
We are already an expert in Auditing/ Company secretaryship/ Costing/ Taxation/ Corporate Laws. So, anyways, you have to maintain this expertise and be regularly updated with frequent amendments. But, to stay relevant in decades to come, it is utmost important that we embrace technology , bring in automation and be efficient in our ways of working.
A client should not come to us on one day before due date to get his GSTR-3B filed, or to get his ITR Filed. Instead, a Client should come to us for certification, for consultancy of certain transactions for which an expert opinion is required.
And, anyways if some client do come to us for return filings as well, we should have an IT driven mechanism, which could do that task without much of a manual intervention, and we should also end up giving him some other insights from the data in addition to his return filing.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has already started automating many of the Finance related tasks like MIS reporting, data analytics and managing databases across hundreds of Corporates. RPA is no longer a futuristic term.
There is nothing to fear about automation and AI, but it is just that, if we run way from it, then our situation in 2030 will be very similar to a person who doesn’t know how to operate computer/ internet in 2021. So, faster we embrace it, the more value we will be able to unlock out of it and get the First mover advantage. So, I hope we now understand that it has actually become critical in today’s time to learn coding/ automation.
Many people learn coding/ Programming as a hobby. But, for Finance Professional, I can literally talk hours explaining the real benefits from learning to program. But, for this article, let me stick to pointing out some real life benefits which I believe a Finance Professional can get.
If you are a Practicing Finance Professional, you would wat to streamline the different processes around your office. You wish the repetitive process involved in making of return could be automated. If only we could draw more useful insights from the clients fmancial data which could assist him in his business decisions and not just do the bare minimum tasks. So In such Case, Learning to automate repetitive tasks is something that should be your first priority.
In case you are a CA/CS/CWA working in a Corporate Job, you must have started feeling the wave of automation in your respective Finance related Jobs. Since their factories are already automated, the wave of automation is towards the admin offices which is a store house of so many crucial data. They want the processes to be quick in these admin offices so that accurate MIS can be delivered in prompt manner without reminder mails.
In such case, a company will definitely value your efforts towards learning automation and assisting company in better and streamlined processes. This is sure to bring you appreciation and may be even a better hike in your office
Company no longer requires number crunchers, but instead they are looking for people who can help them automate the fmancial Processes that happen in their company, and one who can draw better insights from the fmancial data and not only prepare those data.
And if CA / CWA are unwilling to help the companies in automating their fmancial processes, its Fine, the companies are willing to hire Computer Software Engineers who are eager to learn basics of Finance and help the companies automate the tasks.
There is a great opening in new domain which never was in vogue before. A domain where professional having Basic Finance Knowledge and also the skill of working with Databases, some small coding , Data Visualization tools required and also in high demand. So, this new skills in your resume may help you land up you in your dream company even if you might not have great grades.
After going through all these discussion , you might have made up your mind on wanting to Learn about Automation , So HOW Do we Start?
Well, do not directly jump into some BootCamp for coding or some training from Udemy. The first language which I recommend everyone to start with is Python Programming language. I would recommend everyone that First Make a list of those tasks which are actually a big headache for you and you wish that it could be done by the Computer. Make Sure that the tasks are repetitive in Nature. Out of those list of tasks, Pick ONLY ONE, jus one among them and the do the below:
1. Break the one task into small steps
2. Google on how similar steps can be performed using Python. You might land up in some videos , so save those videos for watch alter.
3. Now, Learn the basic of Installing Python and the basic knowledge of different basic terminologies .
4. You can now start watching that Watch Later videos and tart writing code along side
But, you know what, it is easier said than done. There is bound to be many hurdles in the way. And if you do not have a good support system at such times, you are bound to quit and get back to doing things the old way.
So, always have your support system ready. NOW, what is the SUPPORT SYSTEM?
By support system , I mean a Group of like minded people who are walking the same road as you and are facing the similar challenges as you. But, someone out of them will be having the answer to your questions and you must be having answers to some of their questions.
You might want to automate a tasks, but it is possible that someone else had already automated a part of it. He might share his set of code with you and you will get a head-start.
So, the point I am making is that learning a New programming language by someone who had never known coding in his life, can be a bit challenging and you will never want to walk a lonely road facing this challenge.
Now, where can we find such Groups? Existing Python groups have hundreds of Python experts , but they are very technical and are also at advanced level. Further, they usually learn python to earn a living or get a Job, which is very different than our purpose of learning it. Also, they do not have any Finance domain knowledge which makes it difficult to explain things.
So, a platform named “Efficient Corporates” made specifically for those Finance professionals who are interested in coding and automating their tasks. This is available with the name “EFFICIENT CORPORATES” as a YouTube Channel, Linkedln Group , Quora Space, Facebook Groups and also Whatsapp Group (for Serious Learners).
You can freely post any of your queries, your background (CA In practice/CA In Job/ Articleship) and level of python knowledge you have (fresher/basic, working level) and which tasks you wish to automate. The more you interact, the more benefit you can get out of it.
Do join the Group now and post which tasks you wish to automate. To get some idea of tasks of finance which have been automated, you may like to watch some video posted onto the YouTube Channel “Efficient Corporates”
Also, if there is some particular tasks which you wish to automate and want a specific video on how the same can be done, do write at [email protected] for a one to one Interaction.
So, Happy Learning and Happy Sharing …. !!!!
Author: Pranav Pratik Tulshyan
AIR-1 in CA -CPT
AIR-1 in CA -IPC
AIR-5 in CA-Finals