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Accounting & AI: How Will the Field of Accounting be Affected by Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence, often shortened to AI, is a buzzword. You often hear it in the conversations around you and constantly read about it in the news. From AI technologies in cars, to the recent rise of ChatGPT, AI has gradually been making its way through almost every aspect of human life. So what really is Artificial Intelligence? Well, IBM defines it as “a field which combines computer science and robust datasets to enable problem solving.” McKinsey & Company defines it as “a machine’s ability to perform the cognitive functions we associate with human minds.” And Deloitte defines it as “a broad field of science encompassing not only computer science but also psychology, philosophy, [and] linguistics…[and, overall,] AI is concerned with getting computers to do tasks that would normally require human intelligence.”


In the business world, AI has specifically made an impact in the field of accounting. At first, AI posed a danger to accountants, threatening to do their work more effectively and efficiently and ultimately taking over their careers. However, after further research, AI in accounting is now being viewed as a positive addition. This new perspective on AI in accounting was further solidified after my conversation with Bella Ewry. 


Bella Ewry is an alumni of Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business and also an alumni of Women in Business. She once served on the Women’s Month Committee as a second-year and was the VP of Alumni Relations in her third-year. Bella graduated in Spring 2023 with a specialization in accounting. She now works as an audit associate at BDO and has been studying to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). 


In general, Bella believes that AI “has the potential to do great things for the accounting industry.” Bella states that for many years, the basis of accounting has been shifting from tedious bookkeeping tasks towards advising clients. Accounting, specifically auditing, is becoming more and more people focused. Accountants are expected to focus on the different clients they work for, create positive relationships with them, and ultimately understand how they can best help them. Artificial Intelligence can support this shift in accounting by giving accountants more time to focus on their clients and leaving the tedious tasks, like data entry, to AI technologies. 


Furthermore, Bella notes that “AI will provide more analytical capabilities for firms, which will help accountants provide insight on their client’s performance.” This will allow the clients to better understand their industry and their company’s performance, and ultimately help the clients meet their goals. Bella is confident that accountants and the accounting career will never be fully replaced by AI. In certain aspects of accounting, human judgment is required and according to Bella, “you will always need an accountant to verify the information and insights AI has provided for you.”


Specifically in BDO, the company that Bella works for, AI is a popular topic of discussion. BDO “delivers assurance, tax, and financial advisory services,” and according to LinkedIn, it is a company that has consistently been ranked as a top 10 public accounting firm in America. Bella revealed that, at BDO, “there are in house AI tools being developed to help reduce the time it takes to complete certain tasks and further develop [their] analysis capabilities.” Additionally, one of BDO’s goals is to create AI technologies “to shorten the time spent on tasks like writing memos, creating presentations, and developing financial insights on client information.”


Overall, Bella has a very positive and optimistic outlook on the addition of Artificial Intelligence into the world of accounting. She believes that “AI should always be thought of as a tool to help us enhance our accounting capabilities, not as a way to replace accountants.” In the future, as we make our way into the corporate world, maybe we should all remember to not fear AI and the rise of new technologies, but to instead embrace them and learn how to use them to enhance our work in our respective fields.

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