AI to play a key role in strengthening accountants' position
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a key role not only in helping accountants to be a more effective strategic business partner to their clients, but also in keeping small businesses afloat, according to new research1 from Intuit QuickBooks.
Almost nine in 10 (86%) accountants agree that within the next five years, AI will play a crucial role in their ability to be an effective strategic business partner to their clients. The most commonly cited benefit of AI is that the time saved through automation (providing personalisation, prediction and learning) leaves more opportunity for broader business advice (39% of those surveyed agreed), followed by being able to reduce the burden on human resource (33%) and an improved ability to spot data trends (33%).
With accountants now relying on AI to elevate their role from that of bookkeeper to strategic business partner, AI is a popular area of investment for 2023. Separate research from QuickBooks shows a huge 95% of accountants will invest in new technologies in 2023, to the tune of an average £10,000 - £24,999 - and AI is the most likely area of investment (45%).
Those who don't adopt AI are at risk of being left behind. More than two in five (43%) accountants agree that firms who do not adopt AI in the next five years will face a lack of business growth due to the burden of admin on capacity. Others believe firms will lose clients, either due to less time available to cultivate relationships (39%) or competitors using AI being able to offer richer insights and faster turnaround times (36%).
AI can improve the small business survival rate
In the UK, 62% of small businesses fail within the first five years. But 76% of accountants agree that small businesses partnered with an accountant using AI are more likely to survive than working with one who does not. When asked why, 44% pointed to the fact that richer insights from AI mean accountants can offer better quality advice, and forecast clients' cashflow more accurately.
Improved small business survival from AI is also linked to accountants having more time to offer broader business advice (39%) and being able to spot any potential problems quicker with real-time insights (35%).
Nicola Savill, Director at Moore Kingston Smith commented: "Accountants are well versed in applying technology to improve their clients' accounting and reporting. Increasingly, the focus is now on applying this technology to their own internal practices to become more efficient and effective in their operations. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a big part of this, particularly in making routine, repetitive tasks that provide little in the way of personal development opportunities more efficient.
"We see AI as an opportunity to create capacity in our teams, enabling them to work more closely with clients on areas such as interpretation of their financial results, cashflow management and helping them achieve their goals. Automation brings clear client benefits; for example, AI has the ability to follow a set of rules consistently and never has an off day or forgets! It can also highlight areas of risk for exploration and interrogation without needing to spend hours reviewing multiple data sets. This leaves more time for accounting professionals to focus on more valuable human experiences and relationships with clients, underpinned with richer insights."
Nick Williams, UK Product Director at Intuit QuickBooks, said: "Accountants have always been so much more than number-crunchers, and we see accountants increasingly engaging with their clients across a whole range of business issues.
"A key factor in their ability to do so is their financial management software solution. Our research suggests over three in four (77%) accountants believe their FMS is currently integrated with AI, and at QuickBooks this is foundational to our vision.
"Technology can power the community of accountants and bookkeepers. We're continually evolving our platform that saves time so accountants can grow, and surfaces insights to scale their impact. Those who grab hold of the opportunities afforded by this technology will reap the rewards in terms of client retention and adoption."
Independent research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Intuit QuickBooks, with a sample of 503 accountants aged 18+, conducted in April 2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
Independent research conducted by Pollfish on behalf of Intuit QuickBooks, with a representative sample of 2,000 UK accounting professionals sourced through Intuit's database of existing customers. Survey conducted in January 2023.