Chatbots in Accounting & Finance

Nearly every tech company now has a virtual assistant: Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant, among others.

These virtual assistants known as chatbots are making their way into many businesses and homes across the country. Just last week I went to my neighbours house for a cup of tea and witnessed her turn on the lights and vacuum her entire downstairs - all by simply telling her digital helper, Alexa to do it.  Amazing!

For those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about - Chatbots are exactly what they sound like: a chat with a bot. It's a form of conversational artificial intelligence in which a user interacts with a virtual agent through natural language messaging.

This growing trend of AI is spreading into the world of Accounting and Finance and will continue to redefine the role of Accountants and Bookkeepers.

This year we saw the release of accounting and bookkeeping products and updates which pushed the boundaries of what we previously thought possible – Sage’s chatbot Pegg, Xero Discuss, Quickbooks’ Assistant for SMEs, the list goes on.

These tools have moved further into handling manual tasks and even handling routine client queries.

In November, Sasan Goodarzi, General Manager of Intuit QuickBooks, asked their Quickbooks Assistant live on stage, “What did I make in October?” Within moments, the bot answered: “$5,424.”

According to current accounting and financial trends, chatbots seem to be steadily moving into the mainstream, with banks such as Capital One and Bank of America pitching in with their own iterations.

PwC predicts a big uptick in robo-advisors over the next year or so, as well as the move from automation into “cognification” – which sees machines make much more specific decisions.

As their presence becomes more routine in our lives, handling more of our our day-to-day admin, accountants and bookkeepers will be forced to redefine their role in their clients’ business lives and the value they add.

The first step will be to embrace this new technology – trying to resist it will only results in falling behind in the race for ever-more efficient accounting. Those who thrive will be those who use these tools, and the attendant data power, to help their clients.

This will require focusing on the skills that AI will never master – understanding your clients’ needs and goals – and using these tools to help them succeed.

Accountants and bookkeepers will also have to develop their customer-facing advisory skills.

For many entrepreneurs there is real value in knowing that there is a human looking out for your interests, and most have no desire to decipher their financials.

Accountants can still serve as the essential bridge between data-processing AI and business owners, but only if they keep up with the changes that accounting trends are bringing.

 

References:

Moulder, Isobel.  (2017 Dec 7. The 5 Accounting Trends Defining 2018 [Blog Post] Retrieved from: https://blog.receipt-bank.com/accounting-trends-2018

Gheorghiu, G (2017, May 9). Chatbots in the World of Accounting [Blog Post] Retrieved from: https://blog.g2crowd.com/blog/accounting/chatbots-world-accounting/