With An Open Mind, Embrace and Manage the Advent of Technology

Are you still worried about being fired and replaced by a robot? What if you were in the shoes of a CFO making hiring and investing decisions, are you simply going to buy a machine to enter debits and credits instead of hiring someone with an accounting degree?


According to Grant Thornton managing principal, Srikant Sastry, you shouldn’t worry. “We are always going to need accountants. But, technology is going to change the way CFOs build their teams and what responsibilities [they] are going to take on.”


Grant Thornton recently released their 2018 CFO Insights on New Technologies survey. According to the survey, “more than two-thirds (69 percent) of [the] executive respondents plan to increase their investment in digital transformation over the coming year.”


In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Tax, Sastry talked about a few of the survey’s highlights.



Evolving Mindset.


According to Sastry, the biggest takeaway from the survey is that there is an increased focus among CFOs on all technological advances. The survey results “really reflect the evolving mindset of CFOs” that doing business and remaining competitive require a focus on the leveraging of technology.


Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, advanced analytics, and distributed ledger technology are identified by CFOs as their top projected new technology investments in the next one to five years.


According to the survey, 20 percent of CFO respondents said that they will likely invest in and adopt artificial intelligence in the next five years. Because of the increase in speed and accuracy that A.I. will afford, Sastry believes that “A.I. is going to radically change how accounting and auditing are done.”



Concerns About Staffing.


The technological transformation of the accounting industry creates opportunities, but at the same time it also creates issues. That leads to the question - “What happens to the current staff, what staff is required going forward?” Sastry asked rhetorically.


“I think CFOs are going to continue to hire accountants. But at the same time, they will have to think about how they are going to build their teams.” Sastry said. They will be looking for multifaceted people, more analytical people, and people with a technology background. They will want to build more blended teams.”


In terms of the existing staff and people that are already onboard, the survey shows that CFOs indicated their preference to retain and train them (52 percent). Sastry said that cross training among people and departments is very important. The biggest concern is that technology is stepping into functions that are traditionally performed by people, “but people need to be more open to disruption and think about how technology is going to add value to their day-to-day work. When there is a change, you need to embrace the change and not have the change surprise you,” he added.


A Message to Students with Accounting Majors.


Does this mean that students in school today will need to take a computer science or technology route in order to be successful? Not according to Sastry who believes that accountants will always be needed.


“I would encourage them [students] to take up additional skills. Having accounting expertise is always very important but at the same time you also need to understand technologies.” Sastry said. 

Rely on expert practitioners for practical guidance and real-world approaches to complex accounting issues with Bloomberg BNA’s   Financial Accounting Resource Center

Take a free trial today. 
Continue the discussion at   Bloomberg BNA Accounting LinkedIn Group.