Accounting Recruitment – A disappearing future?

Accounting Recruitment – A disappearing future?

With the 4th Industrial Revolution well under way and Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence potentially set to displace 7.2 m UK jobs over the next 20 years, many of our clients have started to evaluate the impact on the sectors in which they are operating.

It is not all gloom as it is also anticipated that 7.2m jobs are set to be created according to PWC UK economic Outlook Report .

The challenge is that some sectors are set to fair better than others.

Accounting and Finance is one that some commentators like Frey and Osborne from Oxford Martin University predict will be extensively automated.


This interactive graphic from Bloomberg (available on their website) indicates that the following accounting careers are high on the risk of automation


But how is this so?

Well the first thing to say is that few commentators are predicting that technology will replace whole jobs, merely automate large numbers of activities that are typically performed by people in these roles. In accounting however a high percentage of the tasks performed by people in these roles are likely to be automated.

If you consider the accounting tools now available from Sage they can now accept direct feeds from business bank accounts and for regular transactions “rules” can be created on how the transactions are to be posted and handled.

Once the rules are created the user merely has to click “ok” to post a transaction. With Sage’s chatbot Pegg, receipts can also be logged, balances checked and notifications set up as simply as texting a friend.

In addition with the governments initiative to “Make Tax Digital” and the accounting software providers responding with automated processes to do this the role of simple and basic accounting is being “de-skilled”.

Where does this leave the Accounting Profession?

44713915 – happy young businessman calculating financial data at desk


Well the more senior roles such as Finance Director, Financial Controller, Tax Advisor and Management Accountant that involve the interpretation of accounts or the management of complex financial businesses where critical thinking, risk management and the rationalisation of conflicting issues are all required, these roles are at a low risk of automation. That is because they are performing tasks that are harder to automate and are less rule based.

In addition these roles typically command higher levels of status and responsibility as well as salaries and earnings

One option for displaced workers is simple. Displaced professionals will benefit from training-up and re-skilling themselves into these more demanding and challenging roles.

In fact it is safe to say this is true of most of the 7m workers that are likely to be displaced across the whole of the UK economy. The new roles that will be created will require people to re-skill and retrain themselves and are likely to command higher incomes and will be more interesting and challenging as it is the more mundane and routine tasks that are set to be automated.

For all of us “Life-Long Learning” will be a pre-requisite in the next 10-20 years.

If you are interested to see the wider implications on the rest of employment and recruitment sector then you might wish to read our blog:


Future of Recruitment – A Shifting Paradigm for Recruiters








Future of Work – Top 10 Reports

Future of Work/Future of Recruitment – Top 10 Reports


In our research we read hundred of reports and blogs each year. It is a dynamic landscape with new reports and interviews with sources out each week but the key reports we recommend reading and on which most of our blogs are based are:

In addition we can’t forget Elon Musk and his Various Interviews on YouTube. You would benefit from at least viewing a couple to gain a more holistic view of the world.

It is not necessary to read every report in full but we recommend at least reading the Exec Summary of some of these reports, though they are regularly quoted in articles and blogs on the Future of Work.

We heavily quote many of these reports and discuss our opinions on them in our two blogs:

Future of Recruitment 2020-2030 – Your Future Starts Today


Future of Recruitment – A Shifting Paradigm for Recruiters


Future of Recruitment 2020-30 – Your Future Starts Today – RecExpo 2018 Download

This week Ian Knowlson spoke at the Recruitment Expo at the NEC in Birmingham on the Future of the Recruitment Industry 2020-2030.

During the talk Ian discussed many topics including the future of recruitment for Managed Service Providers and Niche Agencies as well as the threats to their businesses future and the opportunities for them.

Ian’s talk received overwhelmingly positive reviews from those in attendance with numerous requests for copies of the slides.

Please complete the form below if you would like to receive the files.

Future of Recruitment – A Shifting Paradigm for Recruiters

Future of Recruitment – A Shifting Paradigm for Recruiters


In the next decade the fourth industrial revolution is going to totally transform the recruitment landscape.
According to PWC in its recent UK economic outlook, 7 million UK jobs will be displaced over the next 20 years however 7.2 million jobs will be created. Industries such as manufacturing and agriculture will suffer an overall  jobs loss whilst other industries such as new tech and healthcare will see job growth.

So how do recruiters navigate this maelstrom of change?

This blog will hopefully start to unravel some of the complexities that surround this topic and provide you a toolset for you to understand how this will impact your recruitment business, niche and sector.

Future Workplace will see Job Fractionalisation

Jobs by their very definition consist of a number of tasks, which each employee undertakes on a daily and weekly basis. The effect of artificial intelligence (AI), augmentation and machine learning on the workplace will  see technology increasingly displace humans in many tasks and processes, which will lead to the fractionalisation of work.

Recently Andy Haldane chief economist at the Bank of England said there will be widespread “hollowing-out” of job roles and whole job families as large swathes of people become “technologically unemployed.”

Other industry commentators, like PWC in their July 18 Economic Outlook (quoted above), are more neutral on the overall impact on the total number of jobs lost.

What is clear is that every job in every part of the economy is going to be impacted to a greater or lesser extent.

So how does this affect you as recruiters?

Taking the Pulse of the Market

Well for a start off it is going to dramatically change the nature of your job. Your markets are going to become even more dynamic than they have been. Sources of Talent are going to change, Talent itself will change, clients will seek new “Talent-Sets”and will be totally blind as to where to find these new “Talent-Sets”, what they will cost and how easy it is to find them or even what they look like.

This will create both opportunity and threats to you, your business and your income stream. You will need to become advisors to your clients and applicants, in other words “True-Consultants”

The skills gaps that exist in the UK economy today are going to shift, evolve, disappear, transform and all with increasing rapidity.

Most niche recruiters thrive on sourcing hard to fill skills for their clients. This model has enabled them over the past 15 to 20 years to secure premiums in their fees by being experts in how to source rare talent.

But when the talent itself is changing at such a dynamic rate how will you manage to sustain your placement rates?

How will you know where the talent is, where to find it and what it looks like unless you can successfully traverse this dynamically changing environment?

At Selling Success we see the key to the continued success of niche recruiters comes from learning to navigate this hugely dynamic landscape.

In essence you can become reactive or proactive as a recruiter. The large spoils however will undoubtedly belong to the proactive recruiters who learn to read this dynamic vortex. You will need to maintain your finger on the pulse of your market, constantly monitoring the shifts in “talent-sets”, hiring manager demands and candidate surpluses.

Future of Work Study Conclusions

In the past 12 months we as growth coaches at Selling Success have studied and spoken many times at conferences about the various Future of Work studies that have been conducted. A new one appears each week but here is a list of some of the major ones:

Having read and analysed many of these reports we have identified that there are number of commonalities of those jobs that will be automated and disappear.

Future of Work – Disappearing Careers

Typically these are jobs that are:

  • Repetitive and routine
  • Heavily knowledge-based
  • High customer service/contact
  • Highly administrative
  • Possess a low number of predictable variables
  • Low skilled
  • Process orientated

You would need to spend some time studying your own sector to establish, which roles have the highest probability of disappearing. One tool that will help you comes from the work by Frey & Osborne from Oxford Martin University, which has been heavily quoted by many commentators. There is an interactive graphic produced by Bloomberg that enables readers and recruiters to enter a job type and see the likely risk of automation to the role.

The link is

Their graphic for example shows that Accountants and Auditor though well educated and well paid were at a 94% risk of their jobs being automated. Whilst this has been questioned by many readers, you only have to look at the accounting tools now available from Xero or Sage to understand how this can easily happen. As an example in the accounting and finance professions the jobs Frey & Osborne indicate will be lost are typically:

  • Book Keepers
  • Auditors
  • Credit Analysts
  • Loan Officers
  • Admin/Service Managers

Future of Work – Resilient Careers

By contrast the ones that are least likely to be automated are ones that require:

  • High degree of skill
  • High levels of persuasion
  • Man-management
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Emotional Care
  • Are highly varied
  • Critical Thinking
  • Resolving Conflicting Concepts
  • Original Thought
  • Repair

You will need to analyse your own niche sector roles to establish which of your jobs that you recruit for regularly are the ones least likely to be affected.

In the world of healthcare however there are many jobs, which are likely to have longevity.

These would include the following:

  • Dentists
  • Surgeons
  • Pharmacists
  • Cosmetologists
  • Medical assistants
  • Theatre nurses
  • Doctors and Locums

There is no doubt that automation will have an impact on all of these jobs and that several of the tasks that are performed by these individuals will be automated. Equally it is true to say however that the principle essence of these roles will continue in their current form for many years to come.

In addition to the jobs that exist in society today thousands of new jobs will be created in your niche sectors.

Future of Work – Emerging Careers

In principle these will be created around four main areas:

  • Creating new technology
  • Maintaining new technology
  • Collaborating with new technology
  • New Technological Dimension

The first three are self-explanatory and you should be able to track these during rigorous client and candidate meetings and interviews. Examples of these “emerging careers” would be:

  • Robot Programmers
  • AI Engineer
  • AI Project Engineer
  • Machine-Learning Engineer
  • Home-Aid Engineer
  • Personal Care Aide
  • Logistic Fleet Controller
  • Drone Pilots
  • Computer Vision Engineers
  • Machine Learning Analyst
  • AI Librarian
  • Litigation Bot Controller

Several of these are already entering mainstream recruitment.

Work Reimagined

The fourth one, “New Technological Dimension”, is less obvious.

As new technology become available it will create totally new services and solutions to problems and challenges that are currently beyond our comprehension. These jobs will only emerge once the new technologies have become established.

An example of this is “Vloggers”. Until the Internet and production technology enabled the easy creation and distribution of blogs and video, video-blogging was something that a 20th Century recruiter had no concept they would one day recruit.

The same is true of an “App-Developer” to a 1980 pre-mobile phone recruiter. Those of us recruiting in the 1980’s had no concept a job developing applications to run on mobile phones would ever be possible.

The explosion of new technology that will come over the next 10-20 years with the fourth industrial revolution will see totally new careers, jobs and skills being created and demanded.

Again the only why to ride this wave of opportunity is to have your figure on the pulse of what is happening in your niche sector. Stay alert and learn to “reimagine work” as we know it.

Navigating the New Recruitment Paradigm

Armed with this information you are now in a position to start to make sense of how your niche and market sector will be affected in the coming decade. In fact by becoming a expert in identifying and predicting those roles that are most likely to be impacted you can start to transform your own skills and become a true consultant to your customers.

This should allow you to command premium rates from your clients for your services as well as develop and nurture mutually beneficial and profitable business relationships.

The time has arrived to become the true expert in talent sourcing in your niche, and may be it is also time to reimagine your own career.