Businessman on blurred background using digital artificial intelligence
From Pivot Magazine

CPAs should lead the AI revolution, says Pamela Steer

The accounting profession faces a stark choice: take a seat at the forefront of technological disruption or risk losing a spot at the table of global influence

Businessman on blurred background using digital artificial intelligenceSoon, the use of AI will not be a business edge but a new standard

Do you remember the advent of Lotus 1-2-3 or Excel? If you do, you’ll also recall the deep-seated fear among accountants at the time that the technologies would eliminate our jobs.

Even if you don’t, it’s clear those fears about the end of the accounting profession were unfounded. However, those early disruptors did change the profession as we knew it. Equipped with new tools, we were able to do our jobs better and more efficiently, allowing room to expand our focus on providing valuable business insights to clients and employees.

Today, we are hearing a familiar mix of excitement and trepidation from CPAs about what could be the greatest disruptor yet: artificial intelligence.

In a CPA Canada Business Monitor survey conducted this spring, 62 per cent of respondents said their business is not using AI on a daily basis. However, 45 per cent said that they believe that in the next five years, the technology will free up employees from routine tasks and 36 per cent said it will allow us to accomplish things we previously couldn’t.

Unlike Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel, Chat GPT, the most buzzed-about example of new generative AI technology, is publicly accessible. The fast democratization of this powerful tool will quickly increase the expectations of the business ecosystem: soon, the use of AI will not be a business edge but a new standard.

AI could make some accounting tasks faster, more efficient and increasingly customized by providing easier access to synthesized information, the ability to process vast amounts of data quickly, and enabling more comprehensive and accurate business analysis.

For example, AI can help in fraud detection and risk assessment by finding patterns in previous datasets. It also has applications in forecasting; using data pattern analysis from previous years, it can also incorporate new types of information, including climate or supplier trends, to build a more complete and accurate forecast.

To adapt and thrive, the accounting profession needs to look at AI as an opportunity to strengthen our uniquely human skills to be better equipped to do the things that machines can’t.

By automating certain processes, we can focus our expertise and professional acumen to lead businesses and support a healthy global economy.

However, AI tools also introduce several new risks to the CPA profession: including, importantly, an impact on trust in the integrity and security of information.

Trust is at the core of our profession, both from an auditor’s perspective (providing assurance services) and from that of an industry financial leader (providing trust that the financial information is reliable and relevant). As such, each CPA has a central role to play.

Governments, businesses and intergovernmental organizations around the world are currently trying to provide a framework to govern the epoch of AI.

CPAs, with our formative background in standard setting, have an opportunity to become global champions for a balanced approach to digital transformation efforts; one that considers short-term gains from workforce automation as well as longer-term strategic objectives, such as maintaining organizational resilience, preserving corporate memory, and performing proper controls.

Through CPA Canada’s opportunity to represent Canadian CPAs at the federal and international tables when it comes to data, AI and technology, we have made valuable contributions to the global innovation conversation.

National co-ordination is required to ensure appropriate governance of emerging technology trends, for example, when it comes to ensuring consistent audit quality across Canada.

CPA Canada and the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB) created the Crypto-Asset Auditing Group to work with the Canadian Public Accountability Board (CPAB) and practitioners across Canada to share views on the application of the Canadian Auditing Standards (CAS) when auditing in the crypto-asset ecosystem.

Although AI is a global issue, the impacts are different from one jurisdiction to another—and national regulatory and jurisdiction-specific concerns are just as vital to the Canadian profession’s health. If we work globally, and advise locally, we can find solutions that are fit-for-purpose in a Canadian context.

For example, CPA Québec responded to provincial Bill 25 on the protection of personal information, while CPA Canada is currently gathering input from members across Canada to inform a brief on federal Bill C-27 on a similar topic.

To ensure we are acting in the public interest, there is value in addressing such important subject matter at both the national and provincial levels.

This is a crucial moment in evolution: technology, business and economies are inextricably global in nature, requiring a strong Canadian presence at the international table.

We need to ensure that CPAs, as custodians of the global financial ecosystem and leaders in business, standards and corporate governance, have a voice in what is becoming the biggest technological disruption since the dawn of the internet. 


These include:

  • Working with AICPA to publish thought leadership papers on emerging and evolving technologies that affect North America, including A CPA’s Introduction to AI, The Data-Driven Audit: AI and Automation’s Impact on Audit and Auditors’ Roles and Blockchain and Its Potential Impact on the Audit.
  • Collaborating with ICAS, IFAC and IESBA to research and report on how complexity in the professional environment, digital disruption and mis/disinformation impact the importance of professional skills and ethical leadership.
  • Partnering with IFAC through their Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Advisory Group to publish guidance on data governance and the data value chain addressing the evolving role of the CPA with the ever-increasing value and role of data.
  • Responding to the International Organization of Securities Commissions’ consultation on the use of AI and machine learning after consultation with business leaders, investors, auditors, regulators, academics, and experts from Canada’s fintech and AI research communities.

CPA Canada would like to thank everyone who reached out to offer insight, feedback and ask questions about the future of a unified profession in the wake of announcements from CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec that they intend to withdraw from the Collaboration Accord. CPA Canada is committed to providing timely and transparent updates on governance developments affecting the profession. For more information, including a consistently updated FAQ, please visit the website.


Check out CPA Canada’s extensive tech resources to find out how automation and AI could change the CPA’s role. Listen to the Foresight podcast on the impact of AI on the accounting profession, and discover the importance of a human-centred and responsible approach to AI. Also, learn how to establish effective IT and data governance.