With an increasing number of processes becoming automated in the accounting profession, the human experience is becoming more important than ever, says leading academics in the field.
The need for critical thinking and communication skills was a reoccurring topic of discussion Friday, Feb. 21 at the Future of Accounting Symposium hosted by the CPA Ontario Centre for Public Policy at Brock University’s Goodman School of Business.
Andrew Gaudes, Dean of the School, welcomed more than 100 accountants, academics and students by recalling discussions he’s had with fellow Deans of business schools from around the world.
“Employers are looking for people who can engage and adapt quickly in fast-paced world,” he said. “It’s not about the technical skillset as much it is about the human experience. As educators, we’re looking to provide opportunities for students to develop critical thinking and emotional intelligence, while still addressing students’ educational interests, such as innovation, data analytics and sustainability.”
The symposium featured a mixture of presentations and panel discussions from practitioners and academics from across Canada. Topics ranged from analytics and social issues to innovative technology, such as artificial intelligence.
During a panel discussion about the future of accounting Goodman grad Mark Squire (BAcc ’05, MAcc ’07), Partner with Crawford, Smith and Swallow Inc., said automation benefits entry level accounting professionals because it eliminates the boring and menial tasks.
“Entry level positions are starting at a higher level than ever before,” he said. “As a co-op student, I did a lot of data-entry. Now, co-op students jump right into the exciting parts of analysis, interpretation and discussing results with clients.”
Goodman Professor Jennifer Li, Director of the CPA Ontario Centre for Public Policy and Innovation in Accounting and lead organizer for the event, said although automation and new technologies are scary for some, there is potential for accounting professionals to take on new roles in the industry.
“Artificial intelligence may improve assurance quality; however, there will be a need to ensure the technology is working properly and ethically,” she said. “We’re all confused about technology’s implications about the future of accounting. The symposium was one way to face the issue head on, get a bit uncomfortable and share ideas for how we can all move forward for the overall betterment of the industry.”