Boardroom Insight

Consulting Sector News and Trends

Accounting giants face off for AI award as the industry sharpens its tech focus

This article was written by a human. Here’s how to tell.

The organizers of a major accounting industry awards ceremony have announced the shortlist for a new AI prize, drawing into focus the technology’s growing importance to the sector.

The AI Innovation Initiative of the Year award will be given out by Arena International, a subsidiary of a publicly-traded London firm called GlobalData. Besides hosting awards shows, the latter company runs a number of trade publications in the professional services sector and provides market intelligence to industry executives.

A total of eight firms have been shortlisted for the AI award. They include Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, the Irish affiliate of HLB International and a quartet of smaller companies. That four of the world’s ten largest accounting networks made it into the finalist pool is a sign of the times: over the past two years, AI has emerged as a top-priority item for accounting firms looking to optimize their business operations and address, or at least mitigate, the industry’s well-publicized talent shortages.

The broader IT field has likewise become a major focus for the world’s top accounting firms, primarily as a revenue source. The Big Four and a growing number of smaller firms now derive a significant portion of their revenue from IT services. 

Business award submissions are not the type of document that consultancies tend to share publicly. But HLB Ireland, one of the large accounting firms competing for this year’s AI innovation award, shared some context about its decision to participate in the contest.

The firm says that it has launched several technology modernization initiatives over the past few years, some of which emphasized using AI to automate repetitive chores for staffers. According to a press release shared with Boardroom Insight, one of those projects saw the firm develop an automation tool to reduce the amount of work involved in processing VAT filings. HLB Ireland says that the software has also helped improve the speed and accuracy of the workflow. 

HLB Ireland managing partner Mark Butler detailed in a prepared statement that “our AI-driven projects have significantly boosted our operational efficiency and productivity, and they have received positive feedback from our clients, as indicated by our high Net Promoter Scores recently.”

Like its larger rivals in the Big Four, HLB International offers technology consulting alongside its core accounting services. The firm can assist corporate clients with AI and data analytics initiatives. It also provides management consulting to chief information officers, the executives in charge of managing large companies’ internal IT assets. HLB International’s advisory business, which includes its IT consulting practices, accounted for 33% of the accounting network’s revenues last year. 

The winners of Arena International’s AI award will be announced at an event in London next month.