THE SMOKE DETECTOR: Technology's Impact on the CPA Profession

By Lisa Brown posted 04-11-2017 23:37

  

I'm a big fan of the TV show, Shark Tank, so I was curious when I came across Lindsay Patterson’s blog, “That Time I Told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession.“ Cuban was speaking at the SXSW Conference and Festival and stated, “we'll see more technological advances over the next 10 years than we have over the last 30.”
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In an effort to describe how technology will change the most desirable jobs and skill sets and how important critical thinking will be in the future, Cuban says, “I wouldn’t want to be a CPA right now. I wouldn’t want to be an accountant right now.” Lindsay not only had the opportunity to explain to the public how Cuban did not understand how the CPA profession is already embracing technology, but she was actually able to explain to Cuban, himself, how wrong he was about the CPA profession. She even has a picture to prove it!

There are so many ways technology is impacting the CPA profession that it is mind-boggling to reflect back on the days when creating a spreadsheet in Lotus 1-2-3 seemed like cutting edge technology. Patterson writes about how today technology automates many functions which now free CPAs to perform higher value services, services which require specialized knowledge and critical thinking skills. 

Blockchain, FinTech and Artificial Intelligence would have been considered science fiction not so long ago. In fact, I had not even heard of Blockchain and FinTech until fairly recently. Today, these are technologies in which the CPA profession is strategizing on how to incorporate and utilize. FinTech is an entire industry of technologies used and applied in (or disruptive to) the financial services sector. The March 2017 edition of CFO Magazine features the articles, “Betting on Blockchain” by Randy Myers and “How Auditing Will Incorporate AI” by Bill Brennan, Michael Baccala and Mike Flynn.

According to Meyers, blockchain is a type of distributed ledger that is shared by many users over a peer-to-peer computer network. Each “block” of data is built on the block that came before it, ensuring a complete, highly transparent, audit-able trail of information on an ever-growing blockchain that cannot be changed or altered. In 2016, venture capitalists funded $1 to $1.5 billion of capital into blockchain and bitcoin companies. A survey of 200 commercial and retail banks found that by 2018, nine out of 10 will have invested in blockchain solutions for deposit-taking. Other finance applications include elimination of reconciliation, streamlining of settlement activities, facilitating supply chain financing, and optimizing and unlocking liquidity.

Brennan, Baccala and Flynn report that artificial intelligence can assist auditors by acquiring, processing, and churning through the mountains of data that a business‘ financial reporting systems generate. AI can make it possible to move toward auditing 100% of data instead of sampling. This will allow auditors to study the totality of a business and provide assurance service through thoughtful examination and exercise of judgment, again the specialized knowledge and critical thinking skills possessed by CPAs.

I’m excited to learn more about these and other technologies and see how they’ll be utilized in the CPA profession in the future. Lindsay was right; Cuban was wrong. This is an incredibly exciting time to be a CPA!
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  • accounting
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • automation
  • Blockchain
  • CPA
  • FinTech
  • Technology

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