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Firm Management

Automation and AI-Driven Solutions Can Create Incentives to Attract and Retain Certified CPAs

By automating standard accounting processes like data entry and recording, invoice processing and expense management, employers free their staff for more exciting work, reduce taxing workloads and even help to educate aspiring exam takers.

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By Stephanie Collins.

Accounting firms and departments face continuous pressure to attract and retain talent due to a persistent shortage of qualified professionals to do the work. Scores of certified public accountants (CPAs) are leaving the profession or retiring, and fewer candidates are available to replace them, leaving many organizations short staffed and concerned for their futures.

Many have turned to popular employee incentives, offering higher pay and better benefits, to shore up their staff and ensure they have what it takes to not only meet current workloads, but also bring on new business. Larger firms are getting creative to address the labor pinch by sharing their profits through employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), offering tuition assistance, and building entire departments to upskill their employees.

However, there is greater room for technology to assist in these efforts. Automated financial technology can help firms prioritize incentives that will help them secure and keep the CPA-certified professionals they need to succeed. By automating standard accounting processes like data entry and recording, invoice processing and expense management, employers free their staff for more exciting work, reduce taxing workloads and even help to educate aspiring exam takers. These powerful benefits can aid retention and hiring efforts, including attracting professionals who may not otherwise pursue certification, which can help accounting firms and departments manage the current labor crunch while preparing for an exceedingly digital future.

Automation Incentivizes by Freeing Time for Professional Development and Upskilling Opportunities

One of the reasons for the dwindling number of CPA candidates is that the route to certification—coursework beyond a bachelor’s degree and a taxing licensing exam—is notoriously time-consuming. Organizations have an opportunity to increase the appeal of the work and ease the study burden by allowing their staff time to earn credits and acquire deeper financial knowledge, giving them a leg-up on completing the requirements and passing the exam.

With growing workloads and limited resources, freeing time for professional development may seem like a tough ask, but automation can help facilitate. In fact, Goldman Sachs estimates that automating invoice and payment processes can save as much as 70-80% of time for accounting staff, empowering them to manage their responsibilities more effectively and create time for more strategic work or studying.

The opportunity to work in tandem with advanced technology also provides and finetunes digital skill sets that have become necessities to the profession. This provides critical upskilling for current accounting teams and can help CPA candidates prepare for changes in the upcoming 2024 CPA licensing exam. According to the National Associate of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) , the exam will require a greater knowledge of emerging technologies and their impact on accounting, tax and audit.

Evolving Technologies Lead to More Attractive Work and Better Work-Life Balance for CPAs

In addition to upskilling staff and preparing rising talent for licensing, incorporating advanced technology like AI into accounting departments creates more rewarding work.

Automation can help reduce the most repetitive aspects of accounting work and digitize workflows. Rather than spending time on tedious tasks that can muddy the appeal of the profession, such as record keeping and spreadsheet management, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology can free up time for accountants and empower them to serve as strategic advisors to their organizations. They can, for instance, work on more strategic initiatives like interpretation and analysis to help guide important decision-making. Cloud-based financial solutions can also provide them with compliance assistance and improve the accuracy of accounting work by creating a consistent control environment and audit trail, leading to fewer errors and less stressful work.

AI and a cloud-based environment also make CPA work more attractive by providing flexibility. The solutions untether people from office printers and file cabinets, opening up remote and hybrid work options that allow for greater work-life balance and eliminate geographic barriers to hiring.

Bolstering the CPA Pipeline with Advanced Technology

The CPA shortage that threatens the ability for accounting firms and departments to handle burgeoning workloads and growing compliance demands isn’t expected to improve in the foreseeable future. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 75% of the CPA workforce recently hit retirement age, creating an even greater need for new candidates and putting additional pressure on firms to retain their talent.

Advanced technology, like automation and AI, offers financial leaders the incentives they need to modernize the CPA role and enhance its appeal as a career path for finance professionals and new grads that expect nothing less than a tech-forward organization. It helps reduce the traditional, repetitive aspects of accounting work and creates more rewarding experiences while offering flexibility and more opportunities for career advancement. These benefits can help firms shore up their existing workforce and ensure they have what it takes to compete in the future for top tier talent.


Stephanie Collins is VP Controller at AvidXchange.