‘Robots aren’t coming for your job’: How will artificial intelligence change the work of accountancy and finance teams?

“The robots are not coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your tasks.” 

So said Dan Black, Talent Acquisition Leader at EY, in a recent interview for HR Grapevine.

His quote addresses an issue that’s been on the minds of many people in finance and accountancy since AI became the most talked-about topic in the world of tech and software. 


A new guide published by iplicit considers the impact AI and other technology will have on the work of in-house finance teams and accountancy practices. The publication, Change Is Coming: 7 Trends in Finance Software You Need to Know About, draws on insights from a dozen leading figures in the sector.  

One of the contributors, Lauren McIlroy, Head of Virtual Finance Function at AAB, has said finance professionals need to “lean into” their discomfort about AI, and that 10-15% of transactional work could soon be done by machines. 

Lauren took part in an iplicit webinar, discussing how technology could transform the work of a finance team.  

Here are some of the other insights from our guide. 

AI is already in our software 

AI was not invented in November 2022 – but it would be easy to form that impression, judging from the way the subject suddenly dominated conversation about technology after that date.  

The event that transformed our awareness of Artificial Intelligence was the arrival of ChatGPT, a chatbot created by OpenAI. Its ability to respond to human input and reply in convincing, natural language showed how sophisticated AI could become.  

But AI was already with us. In fact, it powers some of the automation that makes the work of a finance team easier. 

Ewan Bolt, Director and Head of Digital Advisory at Johnston Carmichael, says: “What I find fascinating is that AI and machine learning have been about for decades. This is not new. It's just that the adoption of it has suddenly been ramped up in recent years. 

“There’s embedded AI, where AI is happening in the background so that people probably don't realise it’s going on. The best example I can give is Copilot by Microsoft, an AI assistant which is part of Windows 11 now and is brilliant.  

“I think some businesses won't realise they're utilising these things already.” 

John Toon, Tech Strategy Lead at Beever and Struthers, points out that many of us already use OCR (optical character recognition – software that can recognise text in documents) and various kinds of automatic data entry. “That’s AI, but no one ever talks about it,” he says

Simon Woodhams, Outsourcing Digital Innovation Lead at Moore Kingston Smith, agrees. “We’ve been using it for probably 10 years now but it wasn’t called AI. It was called machine learning,” he says. 

“Then ChatGPT became public and everybody said ‘What’s going on?’ It made everyone a bit more aware of it without necessarily understanding what it is and what it does.” 

What will AI actually do? 

Plenty of people are predicting that AI will change the way we work. But what will it actually do? 

Russell Frayne, Director of Transformation at Gravita, says it will begin by building on the automation that’s already possible with finance software. 

“AI really has the potential to transform the profession in terms of forcing through automation for routine, mundane tasks that really we should have been embracing automation tools for already,” he says. 

He believes there are certain tasks ripe for transformation by AI. 

“Audit just lends itself to this because it’s repetitive. It’s data checking, it’s pattern spotting. It’s all the stuff that a computer is designed to do,” he says. 

“I've done it all in the past and it can become very monotonous. Audit checks are only as good as your sample selection and your sample selection can always be flawed, so it's always up for human error.” 

Alastair Barlow, CEO and co-founder of flinder, says AI’s most valuable impact could be in improved analysis and insights.  

“I think most people are looking at AI to do a few things faster. It can maybe spot mistakes easier and do a bunch of activities that more junior staff can do. But I think there’s a more exciting part,” he says. 

“We’re always talking in accounting about how if we automate things, we have more time for better conversations with clients, to do this advisory stuff. But what is this advisory that’s talked about like a holy grail?  A conversation itself isn’t advisory if there’s no insight in the conversation.  

“I want to see AI delivering real insights that firms are only aspiring to deliver at the moment.” 

What are the drawbacks of AI?  

For all the potential of AI, our interviewees also cautioned against unrealistic expectations. 

Garry Mumford, Managing Director of financial management outsourcer Insight Associates, says: “If it's just doing something which a human being can currently do, but a human still needs to go back and check it’s been done right, it doesn’t really make a difference. I’m a bit sceptical at the moment, but it will get there. 

“AI has to prove itself as actually saving people time rather than just being a bit of a novelty.” 

Nicola Savill, Director of Outsourcing at Moore Kingston Smith, warns of the likely limitations of AI and the ethical dimension that needs considering.  

“There are areas where we’ll want to lean into it more, which means upskilling our team to work differently and ensure they understand it,” she says. 

“They’ll need to understand its strengths and also the weaknesses and pitfalls. 

“The ethical considerations are quite significant and I always say that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.  

“So you need strong policies about what you’re doing with AI and how you’re using it and you need to ensure you’re interpreting what comes out of it sensibly rather than just accepting it.” 

Alastair Barlow warns of the potential for AI to provide spurious information – known as “hallucination”.   

He says: “It’s very good at some things and very bad at others, but it will still come across like it’s good.” 

Find out more 

Building the Finance Function of the Future, a 45-minute on-demand webinar features Lauren McIlroy, Head of Virtual Finance Function at AAB; Kenny Galloway, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Lightyear; and Paul Sparkes, Commercial Director at iplicit. You can watch it now.
 [OD WEBINAR] Featured Image Building the finance function of the future

You can read more insights about how technology will change finance and accountancy by downloading iplicit’s publication Change Is Coming: 7 Trends in Finance Software You Need to Know About.

How it all works

iplicit’s architecture is quite special; it’s true cloud and only in the browser, but it looks and feels like a desktop application. No layer upon layer of tabs opening and probably the most intuitive navigation that you will find in the marketplace today. Take a look for yourself.