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Big Four Agree: AI Will Not Replace Accountants

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Aug 9, 2023

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The Big Four accounting firms are investing heavily in generative artificialintelligence (AI), but the technology will not replace accountants, Accounting Today reported. Instead, AI will augment their productivity and efficiency by taking over mundane tasks such as data entry.

“It won't replace the human at the human-to-human interaction level," Cliff Justice, KPMG U.S. enterprise innovation leader, told Accounting Today. "It doesn't ideate, it doesn't create innovations by itself. ... But at this stage it is very much augmentation for our people and support for our people." 

Paul Goodhew, global assurance innovation and emerging technology leader at EY, agreed that humans are still needed, as they can make the appropriate judgment calls based on the data. AI can process data much faster than people, so it can "interrogate the data more robustly" in a way that enables the accountant to ask better questions and gain better insights, he said.

Joe Atkinson, chief products and technology officer at PwC, said that integrating the technology is not an “either/or” question. "I think there's a role for both," he told Accounting Today. "I'm not a purist on one side or the other. But I think the power of augmentation ultimately will unlock the power of automation by itself. We've been on the automation journey [for many years] and we've benefited enormously."

Currently, AI technology cannot replace human accountants, all four leaders agreed.

"Right now, a machine cannot take responsibility for an audit opinion. It requires a person. From the conceptual level, an audit product, at its most fundamental nature, must have a person involved who is an experienced qualified professional," said Will Bible, Deloitte's audit and assurance digital transformation and innovation leader, acknowledging that there is a large role for AI in the audit that does not involve issuing an opinion. 

“I don't love a vision of allowing a computer to do [an engagement] end to end,” said Atkinson of PwC. “This is where you get into the trust, integrity and responsible use of AI. AI tools are really good at pulling out information and making predictive choices but they can't replace human judgment.”

To learn more about artificial intelligence, attend the Foundation for Accounting Education's Challenges, Myths and Application of Artificial Intelligence in Valuation Services Tech Session Webinar on Thursday, Aug, 17 at 4 p.m. EDT.

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