More than half of global accountants plan to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks as clients become more demanding.

That is a key finding of a survey by FTSE 100 software group SAGE, whose research found that 83 per cent of clients are demanding more from their accountants than they were five years ago.

As client expectations shift, automation and AI are being considered and adopted by more than half of the surveyed accountants to reduce repetitive tasks, freeing them to provide valued consultancy and advice to their clients. 

SAGE spoke to 3,000 accountants globally and found that 49 per cent would like to automate number crunching, data entry, email and diary management and 66 per cent say they would invest in AI.

"Today accountants are seeing AI as purely an automation tool, but the number of accountants who'd invest in AI will increase over the next two to three years as they start to see the true value of intelligence services," said Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage.

"For example, accountants will be able to scale their operations by using AI to review millions of transactions that would have traditionally taken hours to do manually – spotting anomalies and making recommendations."

As the landscape changes for accountants, research shows that a clear majority (67 per cent) believe that cloud technology makes their businesses more successful. 

The study also found that 53 per cent of accountants have already adopted a cloud-based practice management solution and that 45 per cent describe themselves as early adopters, which is above the global average of 39 per cent. 

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants and Alliances at Sage, said: "Accountants have been distracted by the suggestion that offering additional services could take away from their core accountability of offering taxation services and advice.

"But as the cloud has become mainstream, accountants are realising there's more opportunity than there is risk. Those prepared to embrace new ways of working and evolve their business model really are reaping the benefits."