Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The SEC is Developing an Army of Robots to Replace You

You're an accountant, so I'm going to assume you have self-esteem issues. On the off chance you were starting to think that your existence might be meaningful, the SEC announced that it's working on a project that may have the potential to eventually make your job completely irrelevant. The project is called the Accounting Quality Model (AQM), and it's slated to go online in about a year. At this point the AQM is nowhere near wiping our profession off the face of the earth, but I'm kind of assuming you suffer from repressed paranoia and mild depression to go along with the low self-esteem.

Imagine this: Your company submits its Form 10-K to the SEC and […] it is immediately analyzed for risky accruals, accounting policies, and disclosures. All of the data gets instantly compared to what all others in your industry have submitted. When the analysis is complete—in minutes, not hours—it goes straight to an examiner with the equivalent of a sticky note that says, “Make sure you take a look at the following areas.”

First off, give it up for the SEC's IT department for developing an advanced technology solution whose output is so mind-blowing, the only thing you can really compare it to is a sticky note.

This AQM Super-Computer Post-IT Note CPA-Borg has the ability to detect risky accruals. But not just any risky accruals. It detects possibly risky accruals. The same possibly risky accruals that external auditors are required to detect, investigate, analyze through their GAAP goggles, and rationalize on behalf of the companies that pay them lots of money to be independent.

With a flair for BS that's typical of the accounting and finance industries, the SEC stated that the AQM was "not necessarily designed to detect fraud," but at its heart is the "ability to statistically distinguish non-discretionary accruals from the discretionary ones that may indicate earnings management or fraud." The AQM was not designed to detect fraud, just in case it doesn't detect fraud. But at it's heart is the ability to detect fraud, so when it does detect fraud, don't be surprised, motherfucker.

The AQM has at least one major advantage over human auditors. It will be truly independent from the company being audited, whereas human auditors are not. And you're totally right–"Robots Are More Independent Than Humans" would be a great idea for a Philosophy 201 term paper on free will versus determinism. That would blow your professor's mind almost as much as it would blow your GPA1.

But here's where we get to indulge our repressed paranoia. If something like the AQM is successful, and it's refined and perfected, there's a good chance it will eventually uncover corporate fraud in a company whose CPA firm gave it an unqualified audit report. If it's a big enough scandal, it will rock our entire profession, and we'll have to justify our existence to the world, or at least our value to the financial markets.

The Costco Connection2 reports that a cashless society is a real possibility for the not-too-distant future. Once every financial transaction is digital and the AQM is fully operational, all of our jobs could be lost to robo-countants. Then you'll really wish you had something to fall back on. Like a philosophy degree.

1 Regardless, it would blow.
2 The only academic journal with coupons for 30 lb. blocks of cheese.