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The Evolution of Bookkeeping in the Age of Automation

The Evolution of Bookkeeping in the Age of Automation | Fintech Finance

– Glen Foster, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe, Libeo

  • 1. How is automation impacting accounting and financial services?

As a result of COVID-19, adoption of digital tools has accelerated amongst companies offering accounting and financial services. Research by PwC points to the long-term changes that automation brings. PwC assessed 200,000 jobs worldwide specifically looking at the impact of automation on jobs and found that AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation will contribute £12 trillion globally by 2030.

PwC also found that 30% of existing jobs within this sector are at risk of automation. Taking a closer look at the financial services industry, the effectiveness of computer algorithms leads to more accurate and streamlined analysis and assessment of large datasets thus putting jobs at risk yet improves business operations.

These statistics may sound daunting to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), however, in the long-run, such companies can reap the benefits of automated processes while protecting jobs through upskilling workers in other areas of the business that drive creativity and growth.

  • 2. Considering the importance of a bookkeeper’s role, how are bookkeeping responsibilities changing in line with new technology?

With the rise in automation, bookkeepers can use technology to help free up their time for tasks that really matter. For example, one role of a bookkeeper is to keep track of supplier payments. During busy periods, this task could be overwhelming and lead to errors in processing. Finding a tool that collects and allows bookkeepers to pay suppliers is essential as it is time efficient and quick. A platform that has the ability to manage both AP (pay) and AR (get paid) facilities can make a huge impact on time savings.

Another challenge bookkeepers face is managing all bank transactions within the company – if bookkeepers are managing many accounts at one time, some payments could fall through the cracks. Bookkeepers can use technology that connects a company’s bookkeeping software to their bank to get a daily download of bank transactions. Most businesses have a small number of daily transactions that are easy to manage. Rather than accumulating months of work, digital tools help bookkeepers spend less time manually inserting bank account numbers, or checking deadlines and amounts due.

  • 3. What are the benefits of using technology on a day-to-day basis for bookkeepers?

Over the last few years – especially during COVID-19 and Brexit – for companies to survive, they  harnessed digital tools within their daily activities. The adoption of technology has helped SMB bookkeepers to reduce human error, especially within a backdrop of staff shortages and limited access to talent due to illness and Brexit staff shortage. By fully automating invoice management and payment processes, businesses can focus on revenue generation and profitability, reduce the risk of human errors or deliberate corporate fraud and save time – providing greater visibility over transactions and speeding up the time taken to reconcile accounts through to payment.

  • 4. What advice would you give to companies that are resistant to integrating digital tools?

Despite the benefits of digital tools,  some businesses execute their accounting activities manually outside of their bookkeeping products. I’d advise companies to make the most of the functionality they have in their bookkeeping products and question the benefits that automation could bring to the overall business operations. Companies should consider the seamless service they’ll provide to their customers through implementing automated processes, combined with the time saved to focus on other areas of the business.

  • 5. Is there anything bookkeepers can personally do to upskill?

On the job or external training that allows bookkeepers to enhance their existing skills and become familiar with using digital tools is essential to retaining talent across the accounting and finance function. According to BT’s The Future 2021 report, companies reported that their greatest challenge was ‘insufficient internal skills’ following the pandemic. Now more than ever, upskilling provides employees with the flexibility and confidence to adapt to changing job roles and expectations. In addition, companies must ensure that bookkeepers are regularly updated on software changes and updates to equip their staff with potential challenges and opportunities.

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