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One in two firms pins productivity aspirations on AI

Technology

Tax firms are optimistic about how artificial intelligence can be used to bring about productivity improvements despite concerns about accuracy, a recent Thomson Reuters report finds.

By Miranda Brownlee 11 minute read

Around 45 per cent of professionals pin their biggest AI aspirations on improved productivity which will they believe will benefit their talent, customers and environment, a recent Thomson Reuters report reveals.

The report was based on an international survey of 1,200 professionals working across law firms and tax and accounting firms.

“The survey showed 67 per cent of respondents believe AI will have a transformational or high impact on their profession in the next five years,” the report said.

“What’s more, over half of the survey respondents (66 per cent) predict AI will create new professional career paths, while 68 per cent expect roles that do not require traditional legal or tax qualifications to increase over the next five years.”

Thomson Reuters chief executive and president Steve Hasker said the application of AI for more mundane tasks will enable professionals to address human capital issues such as job satisfaction, well-being and work-life balance.

“This will in turn unlock time for professionals to focus on complex work that adds value to their client’s needs,” said Mr Hasker.

Most respondents shared optimism around the power of AI, with 45 per cent pinning their biggest AI aspirations on improved productivity, internal efficiency, and client services, specifically as it relates to operations converging with their talent, customers, and environment.

Additionally, 67 per cent of respondents indicated their biggest personal motivator was “producing high-quality advice.”

To continue this work in the era of generative AI, Thomson Reuters said professionals need to reconsider and redefine what it means to be an advisor and evolve business models to prepare and service customers for tomorrow – not just today.

Top priorities for accounting firms in the next 18 months

The survey also highlighted some of the key priorities for firms and departments over the next year and a half.

The top two priorities for tax firms were productivity and keeping abreast of regulation and legislation, followed closely by internal efficiency.

For in house accountants, internal efficiency and keeping up to date of regulation and legislation were the two biggest goals.

Risk identification and mitigation was the third more important priority for corporate tax departments.

“Whether it is firm growth or in-house departments seeking to facilitate revenue generation through offering new services or products, professionals employed in both firms and corporations see AI as having the ability to enable growth opportunities,” the report said.

“For firms, AI reduces friction to launch new advisory services or expand into new markets. For example, AI potentially can free-up time for professionals to identify and evaluate attractive markets for expansion.”

“For corporate departments, AI can assist in the development of new products and services that could further company growth.”

Biggest concerns

Not all corporate accountants were optimistic about AI’s impact on client service internally, however, with some expressing concern that the human element may be lost.

Two in three professionals in the survey are concerned that AI will also bring new challenges in terms of adapting to AI and pressure to change, dealing with resistance and overcoming steep learning curves.

The biggest fear that professionals had in relation to AI in their profession was compromised accuracy with a quarter of respondents citing this as their biggest concern.

One of the biggest fears of AI that was highlighted by professionals is the lack of accuracy that could result from queries or proactive prompts of suggestions to existing AI chat tools.

“Although AI has the potential to remove human error, many respondents said they also do not yet trust the accuracy of its outputs. For example, some professionals suggested that if clients begin using AI themselves it could bring new challenges, especially if clients are unaware when an answer is inaccurate or incomplete,” the report said.

One of the respondents in the survey stated that clients may use AI in their own research, which may give them false understanding of the issues.

“This underscores the need for there to be a human involved in the process, checking for accuracy when the technology is used, rather than taking the output at face value,” the report said.

Widespread job less and the potential demise of their profession was the second biggest worry for professionals in terms of AI.

Data security concerns were also a concern for 15 per cent of respondents.

 

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