The World Economic Forum labeled accounting as the #3 most at-risk job. This is why you don't need to worry.

The landscape of business is always evolving. New technologies and systems continuously replace human-performed functions in various careers.

Accounting software, for example, allowed regular business owners to take care of their own financials and reporting without an accounting degree.

But did that mean those owners no longer needed the services of a certified accountant?

Quite the opposite.

In their most recent Future of Jobs 2020 Report, the World Economic Forum just labeled accountants the no. 3 most at-risk job. Is that reason to worry that one day you'll be replaced by humanoid bots? No. 

But before jumping into why you shouldn't worry, take a look at why the WEF considers accounting a dying profession.

Key findings in the World Economic Report on the future of jobs

Some of the most important findings in the WEF report include:

Tech adoption will continue to accelerate

Business leaders remain committed to adopting cloud computing, analyzing big data, and moving into e-commerce if they haven't already. But all of this data calls for improved encryption and automation efforts and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The problem: Not all accountants have evolved as technology has evolved, leaving gaps in related skills and capabilities.

Automation coupled with COVID is hitting workers where it hurts

Accounting has undoubtedly been affected by the pandemic. COVID has forced firms to make technological jumps—especially those practices with long-held hesitations.

According to Gary Bell from FLB Accountants, this has accelerated tech adoption by a decade. As a result, 43% of companies surveyed by the WEF stated they would be reducing their workforce in the future due to integrating new and existing technologies. It's expected that humans and machines will spend equal amounts of time on current tasks by 2025.

The problem: In firms with just a handful of partners, what would scaling down look like? And are you adequately prepared to embrace the next storm? Or tomorrow's tech that's suddenly needed today?

In an already at-risk labor market, is there time to reskill and/ or upskill?

There's a small and shrinking window of opportunity. This applies to individuals who will likely stay with their current company and those who could lose their jobs to employer constraints and unemployment.

  • 40% of employees staying in their current role will need to upskill by 2025

  • 50% of individuals overall will need some form of reskilling

The problem: If you're a veteran accounting professional, do you want to learn how to do your job a completely different way or embrace an entirely different financial role, such as an advisor or consultant?

While it may sound bleak, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

So, what does this mean for accountants?

Does this mean your duties are soon to be replaced by a machine? That your daily functions will someday no longer be necessary? According to WEF, your accounting role is in jeopardy. They expect accounting as it's performed today to be phased out by 2025. 

The WEF’s logic is:

  1. Increasing existing technology is edging out the need for accountants.

  2. New technologies currently in development will be the final nail in the coffin.

Is rapidly evolving tech an ‘Extinction Level Event’ for accountants? It's not likely—and here's why.

Accountants aren't going away—why you don’t need to worry

As an accountant, the roles you play in business are vital. You just need to embrace these inevitable changes.

By harnessing existing technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, automation, and other helpful tools, you open your services for evolution rather than extinction.

Today's accountants must adopt new skills while also realizing that their roles are ever-changing.

The larger issue is the fact that a lack of skills relating to technology advancements is hindering tech adoption, which in turn, is stifling an accountant’s potential for growth.

According to the WEF, in-demand skills across sectors will drastically change by 2025 and current skill gaps will only widen. 

The skills employers see as becoming most necessary before 2025 include:

  • Critical thinking

  • Analysis

  • Problem-solving

In addition to self-management skills such as:

  • Resilience

  • Tolerance for stress

  • Flexibility

  • Active and ongoing learning

Many of these skills are ones that accountants already possess—resilience, tolerance for stress, and flexibility. Financial roles such as this already engage in ongoing learning—when have tax laws not changed annually? 

It's these skills that you need to apply to your role going forward that will ensure your duties remain in demand. 

While it might appear that you're at risk of losing your livelihood if you take the findings of the WEF at face value, this is an equation with an answer.

The greatest threat to accounting is rapidly evolving technology. The greatest—and only—barrier to technology is gaps in skill sets.

Harness the power of an improved business model and use it to bolster and scale up your firm.

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Jess Marcello

Jess Marcello
Managing Editor, Karbon Magazine

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