Half of UK accountants say they would be “comfortable” working with a robot colleague

  • New research also reveals that just 2% of accountants believe cryptocurrencies will become widespread in their work in the future
  • Just 8% of accountants say Brexit will have a positive impact on their practices
  • One in eight (12%) accountants say they do not know if their practice will be ready for the imminent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • 20% of accountants also admitted to not knowing what Open Banking is, despite the regulation coming into effect in January

A new research report released today reveals that 50% of UK accountants say they would be “comfortable” working alongside a “robot colleague” in their job. However, 32% say they don’t know how they would feel working with a robot colleague, with 18% stating they would be “uncomfortable”.

The findings come from a new report, The Future of Accountancy published by cloud accounting software company FreeAgent.

The research also found that 48% of accountants believe they will not be doing the same day-to-day work tasks in five years, due to technological changes. The majority of respondents believed that three main tasks, in particular, will change in the next five years, (i) less time will be spent on manual tasks (ii) more of a focus will be on providing advice to clients and (iii) there will be more remote working opportunities.

Meanwhile, just 2% of accountants believe that the majority of their work will be conducted in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, within the next five years. The majority (58%) believe that very little, or no, accountancy work will be conducted in the fledgeling currencies, while only 27% believe “some” work will involve cryptocurrency.

Despite many accountants expecting their roles to change significantly within the next five years, a fifth (22%) say that they either have no plans to retrain or have given it no thought to date. This is compared to 37% of respondents who say they were intending to retrain in order to safeguard their role in the future.

This follows on from last year’s Future of Accountancy report from FreeAgent which found that 96% of accountants believed that either all or some of their work would be automated within five years.

The State Of Accountancy Currently

The report also asked accountants on their opinions about the current state of the profession and their practices.

Accountants are upbeat about their prospects, with 84% of respondents thinking their practice will grow in the next year, compared to 9% who said their practices would not grow. Despite Brexit scheduled to be just under a year away from completion, 42% of accountants say it will not have “any impact” on their practices, while 25% said it would have a negative impact.

Much closer on the horizon is the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), due to come into effect on 25th May. The majority of accountants say they are prepared for it, with 41% stating that they are ready now and 46% anticipating being ready by the go-live date. However, 14% of respondents say they are unsure if they’ll be ready on time for the regulation – or won’t be ready at all – meaning they potentially risk hefty fines for non-compliance.

In addition, 20% of respondents admitted to not knowing “what Open Banking is”, despite the regulation coming into force in January of this year – although 35% said they believed that it will have a positive impact on their practice.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: “It is clear from our report that accountants feel that there are profound changes on the horizon for their profession, driven primarily by technology. Despite this, many see this as an excellent opportunity to grow their practices, by moving into higher-value, advisory roles.”

“While I think it will still be a number of years before we see physical robots joining the workforce, it’s still interesting that many accountants are already anticipating the changes that automation will bring in the future.”

“Overall, automation will actually be a major benefit to accountancy practices, as technological advances will make admin and data management much easier to manage than ever before.”

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