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More Than a Tech Upgrade: How AI Investments Can Sharpen a CPA Firm’s Competitive Edge

Here are some ways that AI tools can help your CPA firm be more effective and competitive today by allowing you to make the best use of your people and their skills.

By Steve Saah.

When you incorporate predictive analytics, generative AI and other advanced technologies into everyday workflows at your CPA firm, you are taking on much more than a technology upgrade. You are setting in motion a wave of transformation that can impact every aspect of your business, from enhancing team productivity to driving operational efficiency to raising the quality of your client service.

Accelerating strategic investments in advanced technology like AI is one of several critical steps that CPA firm leaders will want to make sooner than later if they want to position their business — and their teams — for future success. However, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow to realize the benefits of AI adoption. Here are some ways that AI tools can help your CPA firm be more effective and competitive today by allowing you to make the best use of your people and their skills.

1. Automation of routine and repetitive tasks

Leading finance and accounting organizations have relied on robotic process automation (RPA) for years to handle back-office tasks like data entry and basic financial reporting. Many have now adopted intelligent process automation (IPA) — RPA enhanced with AI and machine learning — to streamline and improve the quality of more complex work like tax preparation and payroll processing.

Meanwhile, generative AI is fast becoming a go-to tool for teams responsible for creating financial reports, tax documentation and more. During audit preparations or quarterly reporting, for example, gen AI can be used to automatically produce supporting documents and reports that align with relevant financial standards and regulations. This not only speeds up the work process, but it also reduces the potential for human error, ensuring consistency and accuracy in the documents produced.

2. Better decision-making with advanced analytics

Sophisticated data models and predictive analytics can help your team members identify financial trends, assess risks and provide more strategic advice to clients. For instance, with machine learning algorithms working in the background, your staff can analyze large datasets to detect anomalies in financial statements that might indicate errors. They can then act on that information, alerting clients to potential financial discrepancies before they can evolve into larger issues.

Predictive analytics tools, which predict future trends based on historical data and other relevant inputs, can significantly enhance your CPA firm’s value proposition for clients by providing even deeper insights and forecasting capabilities. Predictive analytics that utilize machine learning techniques can help your team to:

  • Enhance risk assessment and management services. Predictive models can be used to detect unusual transactions that might indicate fraudulent activity. They can also predict cash flow problems before they become critical. Armed with these valuable insights, your staff can recommend preventive measures that can improve your clients’ financial health and help them stay in compliance.
  • Revolutionize financial forecasting and budgeting. The use of predictive analytics can also help your employees to assemble more accurate forecasts regarding revenue, expenses and other financial metrics. Your clients, in turn, can use those data-driven forecasts to make informed decisions about future investments, resource allocation and strategic planning.
  • Strengthen client retention and acquisition strategies. By analyzing client data and interactions, you can surface trends that contribute to client satisfaction. You can predict client needs, tailor your services appropriately and intervene proactively to address issues before they lead to attrition. More upside: Predictive models can help you identify the characteristics of high-value clients and predict which prospects are likely to become profitable, long-term clients.

3. Improved client interactions with generative AI

Generative AI also has a role to play in increasing your CPA firm’s ability to retain and attract clients. You can use the technology to revolutionize client interactions in several ways, including:

  • Automating and personalizing communications: With gen AI, you can use a client’s history and preferences to transform routine communications into more compelling and targeted messages. For example, you might use AI to generate tailored email updates on tax regulation changes, reminders for document submissions or customized advice on financial planning.
  • Providing responses to client queries in real time: AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants can help your CPA firm respond to clients’ needs around the clock. Whether they have questions about their accounts, tax filing processes or financial planning, generative AI can provide your clients with immediate answers or escalate their queries that require human intervention.

  • Offering interactive tools for financial planning: You might also consider using generative AI to create interactive tools for clients to model different financial scenarios. These tools can help them better understand the potential impacts of their financial decisions and involve them more deeply in the financial planning process, enhancing their overall engagement and satisfaction.

If you aren’t already planning to implement AI and other advanced technologies at your CPA firm, know that you are at risk of falling behind your peers. According to Robert Half’s Demand for Skilled Talent Report, AI implementation and finance technology upgrades are strategic priorities for most finance and accounting organizations this year. So, too, are planning, budgeting and forecasting processes and data analytics, which can all be greatly enhanced through the use of AI.

As AI continues to advance and you identify more use cases for the technology at your firm, your ability to enhance your operations, improve talent management and increase client satisfaction will also grow. However, keep this in mind: Technology provides the greatest competitive advantage when you use it to amplify the abilities of your people and help ensure everyone delivers their best work. Clients work with your CPA firm because they want to benefit from the skills and expertise of your staff. And you still need your team members to validate the quality and accuracy of your firm’s work, whether it is produced by them, AI or a combination of both.

[Author Bio]

Steve Saah is the executive director of the finance and accounting permanent placement practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized financial talent solutions service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading U.S. operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He was named executive director in 2017, previously serving as director of permanent placement services.

Saah has been with the company since 1998, where he started as a recruiting manager, following a career as an internal auditor and assistant controller. He is a noted expert, author and presenter on career, management and hiring trends, particularly those affecting the accounting and finance fields. Saah earned a finance degree from Virginia Tech.