Professionals in the accounting and financial industry in B.C. say artificial intelligence will play a significant role in the industry.
But while they are beginning to embrace the technology, trust in AI still needs to be built.
And while some jobs might be replaced by AI, experts say the value it creates will be in freeing financial professionals from time-consuming, repetitive tasks so they can focus on higher-value work and decision making.
“I think it will change the industry quite dramatically, but I also see it as being an area of potential, a way by which certain parts can be improved if we really embrace AI,” said Lori Mathison, president and CEO of the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia.
“It will enable the use of those simple, repetitive tasks to be automated, which is great; it will help in the analysis of data by quickly looking at complete datasets.
“And AI can get not just processed data, but also apply rules and get through its logic to help make conclusions that can be considered by workers as another tool in their tool belt for helping decisions be made.”
Mathison said she can see some roles in accounting being replaced by AI over time, such as bookkeeping and recording transactions. In fact, some companies have already used AI to record a transaction and to recommend how certain types of transactions ought to be categorized.
“AI can also help with cash flow projections and the analysis of a very large dataset – historically, accountants would rely upon samples to check for patterns and conclusions, but now entire datasets can be run through an AI engine,” she added.
That is what Vancouver-based Charlie AI offers to financial services providers. Their technology can conduct deep-dive research or due diligence to “eliminate” 60 to 80 per cent of the “ground work,” according to its founder and CEO Kevin Collins.
“For example, a financial company has to do tax preparation for large corporations and they will typically spend about six weeks in due diligence trying to pull all of the corporate records,” said Collins.
“They can ask the AI to say, ‘For this company, can you please go and get me all of the tax prep work that I need?’ And it will get all of that paperwork, go through all of the filings and generate a spreadsheet for them. So, the accountants can work on the tax filer and tax advice.”
He added that users can also train their AI in real time so that it can be kept up to date on information and knowledge.
The industry is, in general, embracing AI and sees it as a positive tool to enhance the work they do, according to Mathison. The concerns are more about how to use it rather than whether to use it.
“I’ve heard concerns about the consequences of bad data, or bad processes. There's a need for strong controls over data and the process, and also protection to ensure that there is integrity and ethical decision making,” she said.
For Collins, one solution is to ensure full transparency in how an AI makes its decisions.
“[It’s important to have] full traceability back to the source material, how AI makes decisions, when it made decisions, anybody that interacts with our app… It's fully tracked and traced. And this is where the trust comes in.”