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Industry trends

Disruption ahead: How professionals are embracing automation

A recent survey of financial leaders conducted by Thomson Reuters and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants identified three key disruptive trends as having the greatest impact on respondents’ organizations—technology (automation), regulation and workforce issues. This is the first story in a three-part series that takes an in-depth look at each topic.

With technology advancing at a faster pace than ever before, the term “disruption” is becoming more and more commonplace. But what does it actually mean and how is it affecting global organizations?

By definition, a disruptive trend changes the way we think, behave, or do business. For example, Uber disrupted the taxi cab industry by using technology to change the way we interact with drivers. This demonstrates how disruptive technology is not necessarily driven by new inventions, but often by a shift in how one relates to or experiences something.

When it comes to professionals working within multinational companies, disruptive trends are also making waves. A recent study conducted by Thomson Reuters and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants surveyed business leaders from major global brands on the concept of disruption and the related challenges facing their organization.

According to the survey, 48% of respondents stated that automation is a key disruptor facing their industry right now.

The likely reason behind this sentiment is that advances in automation are increasingly upending traditional finance and accounting roles, particularly when it comes to manual data manipulation and calculations, leaving some individuals wondering if they’ll be automated out of a job.

However, during a recent roundtable discussion on disruptive trends, it became evident that forward-thinking organizations are embracing this type of technology and using to their advantage. As Jaspal Saund, COO at UBS AG, explained, the concept of disruption is the first critical step on the path to embracing it.

“If you actually look at what it means for technology, how we apply new tools and capabilities, it’s not disruptive at all. In fact, the word ‘disruption’ means it’s going to change the way we do things.”

That thinking was further evident in the fact that more than 80% of European respondents to the aforementioned survey described automation as a great way of reducing the time spent on monotonous tasks and reducing human error. And 60% of finance managers surveyed expect a machine or robot to be doing the bulk of their monotonous tasks 25 years from now.

According to Brian Peccarelli, president of Tax & Accounting, disruption within the finance and accounting professions is nothing new. “I can remember when it was adding machines, and then spreadsheet software arrived, which was a big disruptor. Then we saw workflow software emerging, and since then we’ve had cloud technology across all devices — it’s a constant change.”

With fast-pace change as the only constant, the challenge for leaders in finance and other taxtaxfunctions is to embrace advances, like automation, and use them to their advantage.

Learn more

For deeper insight on how disruptive trends are changing the business landscape for today’s professionals, check out the full report: The Rise of the Machines.

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