How technology is disrupting the world of Chartered Accountants

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Founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, said that we are entering a Fourth Industrial Revolution characterised by new technologies that will fundamentally change the way in which we live, work and relate to one another. Mandi Olivier, senior executive for professional development at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) said that we are experiencing a period of radical change when asked about the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Wikipedia says that this revolution is marked by emerging technological breakthroughs in a number of fields, and the accounting profession is one of them.

According to studies accounting is in danger because of automation and technology. The  ability to adapt to this rapid change will arguably be one of the most important attributes that CAs will need, this is because many of the functions currently performed by CAs will  soon be performed by sophisticated technology, ultimately changing the skills that will be needed to perform this work in the future.

For example, mundane work like data entry tasks, repetitive bookkeeping, memorising accounting standards and being able to record journal entries for transactions will be automated, leaving accounting professionals to focus on more strategic roles, like process improvement, cost control, and capital optimisation.

Accounting has to evolve
The University of Pretoria is conducting research that is extending a challenge to other universities on changing the current CA(SA) curriculum. SAICA has also launched a research project titled CA2025 in order to look at the Chartered Accountant of the Future and identify the skills needed.

The big question: will accountants lose their jobs?
No. The media may be painting a picture of doom where all jobs in future will be automated and done by robots but that is not always the case, like with accounting. Accountants will not lose their jobs due to technology but rather technology will change how accounting is done in the future. Some skills currently in use will be redundant and new skills will have to be adopted.

ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) says that it has been warning accountants about the need to adapt as 'crunching the numbers and counting the beans' will no longer cut it. Accounting will evolve and professionals will have to learn new skills in order to keep up with a new generation of CA(SA)s that will meet business needs in a disruptive era.

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