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Accountants Adoption of Artificial Intelligence Expected to Increase as Clients’ Expectations Shift

Sage research finds that 83% of clients are demanding more from their accountants today than 5 years ago

ATLANTA – March 15th, 2018Sage (FTSE: SGE), the market leader in cloud business management, today published research which demonstrates the pace of change for accountants as client expectations shift. Automation and AI are being considered and adopted by more than half of the surveyed accountants to reduce repetitive tasks, freeing them to provide valued consulting and advice to their clients. 

Speaking to 3,000 accountants globally for the annual Practice of Now research, Sage found that 42% of clients expect their accountant to provide business advice, forcing accountants to review how they could lighten their administrative burden to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is providing businesses with smart automation and solving many productivity challenges. Accountants are also realizing the benefits that AI could provide to their practice. Forty-nine percent would like to automate number crunching, data entry, email and diary management and 66% say they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Commenting on the research, Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage said “Today accountants are seeing AI as purely an automation tool, but the number of accountants who’d invest in AI will increase over the next two to three years as they start to see the true value of intelligence services. For example, accountants will be able to scale their operations by using AI to review millions of transactions that would have traditionally taken hours to do manually – spotting anomalies and making recommendations.”

Head in the clouds

As the landscape changes for accountants, research shows that a clear majority (67%) believe that cloud technology makes their businesses more successful. Client collaboration and improved service offerings were all cited as benefits to embracing off-premise technology. 

“With cloud-based tools, I have more time to spend on the parts of the job that require more empathy, such as managing and empowering internal teams and engaging in more client-facing interactions,” David Cowan, Principal Owner and CPA at Tribal Ledgers said. “As technology plays a pivotal role in handling more and more administrative work, soft skills like emotional intelligence and interpersonal competence will become increasingly important ingredients to providing competitive services.

”The research also reveals accountants are embracing the future of automation and are hungry to learn new skills that support the increasing needs of clients. 

Key global findings include:

  • 56% of accountants say that practice revenue has increased in the last 12 months
  • 39% of accountants describe themselves as early adopters of technology
  • 67% of accountants say cloud technology is improving client interactions and service offerings
  • 66% of accountants say they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks
  • 55% of accountants plan to use artificial intelligence to run their business better
  • 53% of accountants have adopted a cloud practice management solution

“Accountants have been distracted by the suggestion that offering additional services could take away from their core services, such as tax and compliance,” said Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances at Sage. “As the cloud has become mainstream, accountants are realizing there’s more opportunity than there is risk. Those prepared to embrace new ways of working and evolve their business model really are reaping the benefits.”

In the U.S., more than half (53%) of accountants are operating in the cloud and more than half (51%) have seen an increase in revenue over the past 12 months. 

Further, 82% of respondents report that clients expect more services and resources from accountants today than they did five years ago and 45% said they see their role becoming more strategic in the next two years, as they offer clients more financial and business advice.  

As accountants respond to the shifting landscape, a majority (67%) report time and efficiency savings being important factors for adopting new technology. With a minority of accounting recipients (40%)   having already adopted a cloud-based practice, there is still work to be done to normalize cloud adoption in the US. Fifty-eight percent of accountants agree that cloud technology makes their role easier by enabling collaboration with clients and improving service offerings, but only 37% have introduced cloud- based accounting software. 

To bridge this gap, Sage launched Sage Business Cloud Accounting. Designed for customers who need a powerful, essential accounting solution, Sage Business Cloud Accounting enables full financial control and reduces the time spent on manual business administration. With more than half of accountants (57%) reporting that they would invest in AI if it automated time-consuming and repetitive tasks, Sage made its products accessible across any device and integrated chatbot technology to facilitate day-to-day balance visibility, invoice & expense management and next generation conversational accounting.  

Research Methodology:

The Practice of Now research was conducted by research & data collection agency Viga, on behalf of Sage, in early 2018. 3000 accountants, from entry level to C-suite, were surveyed online across seven markets, including the UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia and Ireland.  

About Sage

Sage (FTSE: SGE) is the global market leader for technology that helps businesses of all sizes manage everything from money to people – whether they’re a start-up, scale-up or enterprise. We do this through Sage Business Cloud - the one and only business management solution that customers will ever need, comprising Accounting, Financials, Enterprise Management, People & Payroll and Payments & Banking.  

Our mission is to free business builders from the burden of admin, so they can spend more time doing what they love – and we do that every day for three million customers across 23 countries, through our 13,000 colleagues and a network of accountants and partners. We are committed to doing business the right way and giving back to our communities through the Sage Foundation.