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Accountants are likely to adopt more artificial intelligence systems to meet the increasing demands of clients, according to research by Sage.

Sage provides accountancy software and a whole host of cloud-based business management apps.

The company conducts an annual survey of about 3,000 accountants across several countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Australia and Ireland.

Called Practice of Now, the study found that 42 per cent of clients expect their accountant to do more than crunch numbers – they want business advice.

Sage says this is prompting accountants to prioritise business analysis over straightforward accounting and administrative tasks – which can often be automated.

And while routine, repetitive tasks are being automated, AI is being introduced to help analyse what the numbers and data mean for the business.

While high-level business intelligence using AI is still an ongoing development, AI is already providing businesses with smart automation and solving many productivity challenges, says Sage.

Accountants are also realising the benefits that AI could provide to their practice, adds Sage, with 49 per cent saying they would like to automate number-crunching, data entry, email and diary management, and 66 per cent saying they would invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage, says: “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.”

Additionally, cloud-based accountancy and business management tools are also seen as a key factor in the success of a practice.

Sage research found that 67 per cent of accountants believe cloud technology makes their business more successful.

Some of the other key findings of the Sage study in the UK include:

  • 83 per cent of clients are demanding more today than 5 years ago.
  • 42 per cent of clients expect business advice.
  • 67 per cent of accountants believe that cloud tech makes their role easier by enabling collaboration with clients.
  • 53 per cent of accountants have already adopted a cloud-based practice management solution.
  • 45 per cent of UK accountants describe themselves as early adopters, which is above the global average of 39 per cent.
  • Over half of UK accountants (63 per cent) say that practice revenue has increased in the last 12 months (in comparison to the global figure of 56 per cent).
  • More than two in three accountants are turning to artificial intelligence to: improve interactions with clients; improve the services they offer; reduce time wasted on repetitive tasks; avoid mistakes.

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of partners, accountants and alliances at Sage, says: “Accountants have been distracted by the suggestion that offering additional services could take away from their core accountability of offering taxation services and advice.

“But as the cloud has become mainstream, accountants are realising 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.”

The Practice of Now research was conducted by research & data collection agency Viga, on behalf of Sage, in early 2018.

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