Foresight podcast episode 4 AI

Episode 4: What is AI’s role in accounting?

AI is going to be like a colleague whom we refer to support our analyses, but also one we're going to challenge and question. (French only)

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AI may appear to be a concept in the distant future, but the current evolution of smart cars, facial recognition and the banking industry’s heavy reliance on AI proves otherwise. It’s only time until accounting professionals will start using AI to streamline day to day processes. But first, it will be vital to understand AI within the context of accounting, the places that AI will eventually occupy in the profession, and how it will change the role of accountants.

Marc-André Paquette, director of Professional Transformation and Special Projects at the Ordre des CPA du Québec, and Mario Malouin, visiting professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of AI and how accounting professionals will have to learn to work with this new technology to optimize the procedures and make their work more efficient.

NOTE: This podcast is available in French only.

View transcript

In this episode

  • To fully understand the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in accounting, companies will need to go through a discovery phase, which means conducting pilot projects. (00:44)
  • Before they consider adopting this technology, professional accountants need to identify which systems in their company are the least effective and ask how they can be optimized. The second step is assessing the potential contribution of AI. (04:24)
  • To avoid problems in the coming years, professional accountants will need to retain their decision-making power and not blindly trust AI. They will need to exercise their judgment and always look critically at analyses performed using this technology. (07:10)
  • The four main functions of AI are:
    1. Defining goals
    2. Adapting to a changing environment
    3. Learning
    4. Making appropriate decisions according to certain constraints (10:14)
  • At the moment, there are a large number of tasks that AI is unable to perform with any degree of precision. To say that AI will lead to the loss of many jobs is therefore overly simplistic. The purpose of AI is not to replace humans but rather to assist them in their work. (12:30)
  • One of the turning points in the history of AI was a conference held in Dartmouth in 1956 during which 20 or so researchers developed the concept of machine learning. (16:09)
  • In the coming years, CPAs and the accounting profession as a whole will need to carefully study the issues raised by AI. Moreover, the use of this technology will need to be properly regulated. In fact, we are already seeing initial efforts to regulate AI in the European Union and the United States. (17:27)

Key takeaways

  • AI developers will need to make sure that the data this technology relies on is free of bias (humans have about 188 unconscious biases). This means multidisciplinary teams will need to be assembled to develop the algorithms.
  • To prepare for a future where AI is increasingly present, professional accountants need to educate themselves on how this technology works and how it will impact their practice. They will also need to stay up to date on new developments in the field of AI.
  • AI will undoubtedly result in better-quality audits. It will also allow auditors to take a step back, exercise their judgment and ensure that their work is done well.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect those of CPA Canada.