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Embracing the inevitability of change: how technology is transforming today’s financial landscape

Article by: John Roman, Jr., CIO The Bonadio group and Gregg Genovese, CPA, CVA, Partner, The Bonadio Group

Recent headlines have caused alarm by speculating that companies of the future are aiming to replace employees by introducing robots to the workplace, and fully automating many tasks. Economists are forecasting unprecedented organizational change, with manual labor performed exclusively by machines in some industries. Will the workplace of tomorrow resemble author Isaac Asimov’s world of “robot machines” interacting and assimilating in society alongside humans? As society is confronted with life-altering technology, this fear doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of the changing dynamics and benefits of advancements in the workplace, specifically in the financial sector. In fact, accounting and finance professionals are discovering that technology is creating efficiencies that will save time, money, and resources for companies and clients alike. What does this mean for today’s business leaders?


Accelerating innovation in the accounting industry
Keeping pace with dynamic change is essential to accounting and finance professionals. When we discuss accelerating advancements in finance, there are often two distinct areas we are reviewing—AI and robotic process automation. AI is commonly defined as the machine imitation of human behavior. Robotic process automation applies software or a “robot” repeating a set of previously demonstrated actions. Both AI and robotic process automation are freeing up team members for more complex assignments, applying their skill sets to benefit clients. Subject matter experts are available to inform and advise clients based on high volumes of data, rather than a partial sampling of data in an audit. With 100% of the available information ready to be reviewed first by machines and then thoughtfully analyzed by senior-level experts, this is changing the way traditional audits are occurring and empowering team members with more sophisticated tools.
At The Bonadio Group, we’ve committed resources to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and its new Dynamic Audit Solution methodology or DAS. DAS reflects a bold, reimagining of the accounting industry. Flexible and scalable, by using the power of automation, AI, data analytics and updated methodologies to transform auditing, DAS delivers innovations to drive audit quality and add value to clients. By embracing leading-edge innovations with a proactive approach, The Bonadio Group is not only creating a better experience for clients, but also increasing opportunities for its people.


Optimizing resources through outsourcing
Concurrently, our Outsource Accounting Team is finding that business leaders are best off focusing on selling and project management, leaving the accounting to dedicated professionals. Functions including accounts payable, bank account reconciliations, cashflow management and planning, budgeting/forecasting and strategic planning are among areas being outsourced. Many small businesses, growing firms and franchise owners benefit from outsourcing senior positions like the controller and chief financial officer. These roles no longer need to belong exclusively in the internal hierarchy and org chart and can be entirely outsourced. Our clients confirm that outsourcing accounting allows for continuity by avoiding high turnover among junior-level or clerical roles in-house, and the chance to easily adapt to rapid growth by adding resources only as needed. Robust tools offered by the outsource accounting team share metrics that matter, giving real-time financial data to managers on the frontlines, using a convenient dashboard available with a mobile app.


Positive benefits of technology in everyday life
With AI, much like Netflix and Pandora learn from user reviews--analyzing habits, likes and dislikes--the same technology can be applied to databases full of invoices that have been reviewed in the past, expediting a process for accountants and providing usable data to finance leaders. This can be thought of as artificial augmentation—complementing a person’s skill set rather than replacing it. While robotic process automation automates highly repetitive tasks, humans inform the process and are an integral part of its development and execution. This is less of a threat and more of a mechanism optimizing repetitive actions that often experience a high likelihood of error. Data analysis involved in duplicative programs as part of the merger and acquisition process is an example of this. There is incredible progress happening behind the scenes as entire industries are optimizing resources and freeing up team members for more thoughtful activities and analysis.


Welcoming a new generation to the world of accounting
Many firms and their employees are experiencing the overwhelmingly positive benefits of AI and robotic process automation, with new generations of C-suite leaders accepting these changes as the norm. Accounting firms are welcoming a multi-generational workforce to our industry, finding that a high-tech environment is expected, not feared. With a veritable alphabet soup of generations X, Y, and Z in the workplace, the new team members walking through the doors at The Bonadio Group embrace new processes, procedures, and efficiencies like never before. They are digital natives and expect their company to offer and promote a tech-savvy culture. Increasing opportunities for individual employees to succeed while creating better experiences for clients is a driving force in a multi-generational workforce. Team members value work/life balance, and welcome new technologies that make their jobs better and clients happier. The Bonadio Group offers unlimited PTO to team members, because we understand the seasonality of our profession—if we can optimize resources and respect the time and talent of our team members, we will all be better off. A purposeful, goal-oriented workplace is essential—and one with the latest technological tools is particularly appealing.


Where do we go next?
The future of accounting consists of a technology-rich environment, filled with advancements and opportunities—not threats. The Bonadio Group celebrated our 40th anniversary last year, and we believe that the next five years likely will not resemble the previous 35. With AI, robotic process automation, and data analytics driving DAS and the popularity of outsource accounting services, technology is totally transforming the finance sector. We look forward to an exciting future!
Gregg Genovese, CPA, CVA is a Partner at The Bonadio Group’s Rochester, N.Y. office, leading the Outsource Accounting Team.
John G. Roman Jr, is the Chief Information Officer of The Bonadio Group.

This material has been prepared for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. Should you require any such advice, please contact us directly. The information contained herein does not create, and your review or use of the information does not constitute, an accountant-client relationship.