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What is artificial intelligence?

Before looking at the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in delivering accounting services, let’s define exactly what artificial intelligence is. In simple terms, it is software that can perform the kind of functions traditionally only done by human minds, such as problem-solving and learning. AI software often makes use of programs that can identify patterns in data and learn from those patterns, meaning that automated programs using artificial intelligence become more efficient the more they are applied. 

Everyday applications of artificial intelligence that many people interact with include smartphones, media streaming services and satnavs. 

Artificial intelligence in accounting and financing

The fact that the traditional ‘big four’ accounting firms - Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and EY – have all invested heavily in artificial intelligence in the past few years indicates just what a powerful tool it offers to accountants. An accountant who doesn’t yet make use of AI could be forgiven for being slightly daunted by the thought of working with this extremely powerful technology. The best way of dealing with the challenge of getting to grips with artificial intelligence is probably to highlight specific areas that it can help with.

Speeding up repetitive processes

Traditionally, accounting has involved time-consuming repetitive tasks such as data entry. Artificial intelligence can automate processes such as this, inputting vast amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take a human being to do so. At the same time, artificial intelligence can remove the risk of human error from data collection and input. The other huge advantage to be gained from this use of artificial intelligence is that it frees up employees to have the time to work in a more strategic and long-term manner.  

Cutting fraud

The finance department of a business can use the power of artificial intelligence to cut the incidence of fraud. Programs that make use of AI can process large volumes of data on an ongoing basis, and the machine learning involved enables the technology to identify activity that may be fraudulent and flag it up to be reviewed. While the final analysis of the data – and the decision as to whether the activity is fraudulent or not – will still rest with a human being, the hard work of analysing large amounts of data will be handled by the artificial intelligence. The more expense claims AI looks at, for example, the more it will learn to spot those that aren’t 100% genuine.     

Personalised provision

With artificial intelligence handling time-consuming tasks like entering figures from paper documents to IT systems, or reconciling different columns on spreadsheets, accountants can be free to spend more time offering a genuinely tailored and personalised service to their clients. This might include analytical insight into the wider financial performance of a client or forward-looking advice on the way they handle their finances. 

Big data

All of the time that artificial intelligence spends completing tasks such as entering figures or balancing double-entry accounts is also time spent gathering huge amounts of data. This data can then be used to drive insights into the way businesses work, or to create reports using past experience to drive future planning. While the data that is gathered will undoubtedly be highly valuable, it is only when it is combined with the expertise offered by experienced practitioners that it will deliver actionable insights. As artificial intelligence comes to play an ever-larger role in the delivery of accountancy, the practitioners who thrive will be those who find ways of delivering this type of extra value. 

We can help

Technology like artificial intelligence can play a role in transforming the way your business operates. GoCardless can ease the way you deal with customers by helping with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

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