AI will ‘change nature’ of accounting, says Sage boss

28 February 2024, 11:34

Sage sign
Sage CEO on AI. Picture: PA

Chief executive Steve Hare said AI will lead to fewer jobs at the lower end of the industry amid a shift towards advisory work.

AI is set to “change the nature” of the accountancy profession and will lead to fewer but more productive jobs, according to the boss of accounting software firm Sage.

Steve Hare, chief executive of Sage, said the advance of generative AI will soon be relied on by many small businesses to handle basic accounting work, such as tax returns, which were once the bread-and-butter of the industry.

He said AI will also help plug a mounting shortage of workers to handle the more basic finance and accounting jobs, which has been leaving many small and medium-sized businesses with recruiting headaches.

Mr Hare told the PA news agency that AI will “change the nature of jobs” and there will be no more accountants taking shoeboxes full of receipts and working out tax returns.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare said the role of the accountant will become more advisory (Sage/PA)

“All of that will be digitalised – there won’t be any paper receipts and you won’t need lots of people to put together these accounts,” he said.

“There will be less of these jobs, but I believe we’ll end up with a lot more jobs contributing added value and creating growth in the economy.”

He added: “Smaller businesses can’t hire the people to do these mundane jobs – young people don’t want to do these mundane repetitive tasks.

“That’s how young people think today, because they’ve grown up in a digital age. They think ‘a computer can do that, I’m not doing it’.”

He said the role of the accountant is developing to become more advisory and focused on forecasting and strategy.

Mr Hare said: “Some businesses will always want to go to an accountant for tax advice.

“I don’t see the day when someone will trust a machine to give them tax advice. It’s evolving into a more advisory role.”

He said this would be good for the industry and the wider economy.

“The reason I’m optimistic is that by driving this level of productivity, it will enable us to have economic growth,” he said.

Sage Copilot
Sage Copilot will help with forecasting, cashflow management and generating and sending invoices (Sage/PA)

His comments come as Sage unveiled its new generative AI-powered software called Sage Copilot, which it hopes will “revolutionise accounting, finance and people management processes”.

The new software promises to handle administrative and repetitive tasks while also recommending ways to make savings and drive business improvements.

It is set to help with forecasting, cashflow management and generating and sending invoices, as well as workflow automation and spotting errors.

It will launch in the UK initially, first in April for Sage Accounting with a limited number of existing customers, before rolling out more widely in May, and then being made available for Sage for Accountants and other products later in the year.

Other products and countries will follow at a later date, it said.

Mr Hare said: “Sage Copilot revolutionises small and mid-sized businesses and accountant productivity by bringing trusted AI into the heart of their operations – automating tasks and providing insights to fuel growth and efficiency.

“It’s not just an AI feature; it’s a commitment to building a future where businesses can focus on their goals, supported by AI.”

He stressed it would “help not replace” accounting within businesses.

“It’s called a copilot, not pilot – it’s an assistant,” he said.

“AI can give you prompts – it can help do things and problem solve. It can help, not replace.”

By Press Association

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