Anders Liu-Lindberg en Directors and Executives, Financial Accounting, Accountants Senior Finance Business Partner • Maersk Line A/S 24/10/2016 · 5 min de lectura · 3,3K

Your Robot Accountant Has A Name, It’s Dixie

Back in June, I wrote a post titled “Have You Met Your Robot Accountant Yet?” and truth be told I hadn’t met mine at that time and the post was more based on the probability of it happening than actual real life examples. However, a few weeks ago I found it reading the Danish business newspaper Borsen. A company called Dixie had created a robot accountant for small and medium-sized businesses to take care of classic back-office tasks such as expense reporting and annual reporting. So a few hours later I reached out to the company’s co-founder Rasmus Severinsen to learn more about what this company was all about.


“Dixie is currently clearing around 60% of what we used to do in manual fashion”

Rasmus was kind enough to let me ask a few questions to understand just how far automation has come within the space of accounting or what we would call classic bookkeeping tasks. First of all, I wanted to understand more about how it works in practical terms.


Q: How far are you actually taking automation?

A: …to give a concrete example, our first task in line for being automated was the receipt-to-transaction matching. Usually, a traditional freelance bookkeeper would at most face a .csv file with bank transactional data (date, text, amount, currency) and a Dropbox folder containing an array of file types with receipts or invoices. Every receipt needs to be assigned to a transaction, which is simply done by looking at a receipt, identifying a merchant, date or amount, and then search through the list of transactions to find the correct match… The way Dixie solves this is by substituting the manual processing with a manual approval flow. We've built a "machine" that scrapes data from our obtained files from our customers, the data is then processed and a date, merchant, and amount is attempted identified. This now scraped and contextualized data is then matched with our lists of transactions for each individual customer and given an arbitrary "score". The score will determine whether or not the match should be suggested to a human or whether the confidence level is too low to potentially 'disturb' a human with as a suggested match. Our machine is built so that every approved or disapproved suggested match will teach our machine to better understand receipt and invoice data as well as the correctness of the transactions. Currently, our machine is clearing around 60% of what we used to do in a completely manual fashion. How far we will take this technology is basically to the limit where we can maintain an error-free matching procedure with minimum manual labor.


I know that was a bit of a long answer but I also think that for many people automation of more skilled work is something that is only talked about but not actually happening. So to illustrate that this is very real we also need to make it very concrete how it is happening and Dixie just made it very concrete and real! But how far is Dixie actually venturing into a company’s accounting books?


Q: Do you have full control over the company books or are you only handling a subset of their costs?

A: We’re a full-service solution for all administrative burdens…and have full access to our customer’s books (in fact, we create their books)…


So given that the robot is currently clearing 60% of the transactions it’s not a fully automated solution yet but it’s getting really close and the ambition is as Rasmus outlined in his reply to reach a fully automated error-free matching procedure.


What is rule based can be automated

Another challenge about automating accounting is how to keep up with changing regulations? It is one thing that the rules can be coded but since there are always revisions to the rules the coding needs to be up to date at all times. Here, Dixie has taken a really proactive approach.


Q: How do you keep your system updated with changes to accounting rules?

A: We have a dedicated operations team whose task is also to stay updated on the legal framework within which we operate. If we face environmental changes (governmental legislation or the like) then we simply adjust accordingly and educate our customers if needed. When it comes to the automation part, it has not created any obstacles yet, and we find it unlikely that any radical changes will throw us off. Rather, we actually work with e.g. Erhvervsstyrelsen [a Danish legislative body] in their current efforts of digitalizing and automating the submission process of companies' annual accounts by providing our knowledge and inputs as to how such processes can be optimized. So we are very much "in the field" when it comes to that.


So not only is Dixie staying on top of any changes that are coming by having a dedicated team taking care of it and educating the customers they are even proactively helping the authorities become more digital themselves. That’s a great way to not only future proof your business model but making it even more relevant to the customers. Another point I take from this is that just because current rules and regulations haven’t caught up with reality it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dive into a business idea that’s dependent on certain changes or interpretation of the rules. No, instead you should start a proactive dialogue with the legislators about how your business model can make a positive difference and get buy-in to change the rules.


Can you fully replace the accountant?

So this is the one million dollar question. Is automation purely a help to the accounting department or can it fully replace it?


Q: How much of an accountant’s / bookkeeper’s work are you actually able to replace?

A: It would be bold to say "everything", but it is tempting… That being said, we believe that today it should be possible to automate around 80% of the daily tasks performed by a traditional bookkeeper. This does not only include receipt handling but data collection, ledger entries, VAT assignment, controlling etc.


So somewhere between trying to be modest and an 80% answer I read that the truth is that once Dixie has automated 80% of the accountant's job they will take a stab at the remaining 20% eventually giving accountants and finance professionals more time to do“forecasting, deep-dive analysis, consulting etc.”. 100% of jobs have been automated before and it will happen again and accounting seems to be up next. The only question left is whether or not Dixie can take on the world or remain an offering to small and medium-sized companies only?


Q: What’s stopping you from taking this concept to big companies as well?

A: The biggest difference between small and large companies is the fact that small companies usually do not have a dedicated in-house resource to accounting, whereas large companies usually have an entire department. The offering we are building needs to accommodate that. However, most of the technology we are building is directly applicable in larger companies with relatively low efforts of modification for implementation.


So it’s accounting automation coming to a town near you and while Dixie is so far a concept offered only in Denmark I’m sure there are other companies out there offering to do the same for your company. So what’s stopping you from jumping on the automation train?


As always let me know what you think about the post by liking, sharing and commenting and I certainly also encourage you to have a talk with Rasmus and Dixie to see what they can do for you! You can write to Rasmus directly at rasmus@dixie.io or visit the company at www.dixie.io.


For posts in my latest series on how the CFO should transform Finance, you can continue reading below and further below there are more posts about finance business partnering.

The CFOs Roadmap To Transforming Finance

How To Fix Your Basic Finance Function

Finance Systems For The 21st Century

Big Data Needs Big Data Scientists 

Can Big Data Nerds Speak Business?

How To Become Great At Business Finance

I’m A Finance Business Partner, To Whom?

Beyond The Final Frontier Of Finance


I also encourage you to take a tour of my old posts on finance transformation and finance business partnering and not least “Introducing The Finance Transformation Nine Box” which is really that starting point for the transformation. Last but not least, you should join my Finance Business Partner Forum where we will continue to discuss this topic.

Financial Analyst vs. Finance Business Partner

You’re A Finance Business Partner, Now What?

Case Study: Becoming A Finance Business Partner

How Finance Business Partners Improve Company Performance

There Is A New Kind Of CFO Needed In Town

Variance Is Finance's Best Friend

Are You Ready For Finance Business Partnering 2.0?


Anders Liu-Lindberg is the Senior Finance Business Partner for Maersk LineNorth Europe and is working with the transformation of Finance and business on a daily basis. I have participated in several transformation processes amongst others helping Maersk Drilling to go Beyond Budgeting and transformed a finance team from Bean-counters to Business Partners. I would love the chance to collaborate with you on your own transformation processes to help you stay out of disruption. If you are looking for more advice on how to get the most of LinkedIn I also have a few tips to share as well as if you want help in your job search. Don’t be shy! Let’s get in touch and start helping each other.

Your Robot Accountant Has A Name, It’s Dixie



David Warne 28/8/2018 · #13

Great post. i would like to recommend https://chekin.co.uk for list your accountant profile. Chekin help to increase traffic.

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Sankar Narayan 19/5/2018 · #12

Technology has by now taken us to that state where robots could accomplish any and all physical tasks that a human could do, and of course with excellent perfection. But, in fact, the enterprises are not that excited in adopting robotic applications in all facets of their ventures. They try to invoke such automations that ease their operational agendas pertaining to bottom level performances. But the top brass will not take the risk of leaving most decisive stages of their operations to such nonhuman devices.
Every day we come across new inventions in almost all human ventures. Human history itself is the witness to the last 100 years' Technology Advancements in every field of human activity.Still the key performers in each and every organizations are men and women. The computers, for instance, has automated most of the tasks hether to handled by human professionals. But the very same professionals are needed to achieve the set goals of the very same organisation.

I have carefully gone through the details automation package that has been recently introduced with regard to accounting tasks. This is certainly a very enabling faculty in substantially easing the Accounts and Finance functions. I wish to congratulate the inventor for introducing the exciting possibility. But to me Accounts & Finance being the backbone of existance and the very survival of any ventures the support of well learned Finance professionals will be needed to monitor the accounting operations at each and every stage to protect the positive performance and unbredeled growth of any organization.And ,of course, no enterprise will take the risk of handing over the entire accounting functions to automated programs to save on time and costs. They will embraise the program for better performance .
I definitely see a great future for "The Robot Accountant" and wish all the very best to this venture.

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Anders Liu-Lindberg 31/10/2016 · #11

#9 Thank you for the comments, Charles. Obviously nothing wrong with the views here. In my opinion, you will pay more for the product though (and if SaaS and cloud based systems your investment wouldn't be significant) and probably it (the human intervention) will be more errorprone. Of course, autiomation is not without risks so no one size fits all.

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Anders Liu-Lindberg 31/10/2016 · #10

#7 Thanks for the comment Irene,
I believe the first step is automation of transactional processes but not any analytical review. However, I'd say that's it's most likely human intervention that leads to most mistakes in the first place rather than automation. When eliminating the human element it reduces the risk of mistakes. Naturally, if your coding of the automated system is wrong or it breaks down you will be in lots of trouble. So where lies the biggest risk?

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Charles David Upchurch 29/10/2016 · #9

You asked
"So what’s stopping you from jumping on the automation train?"

My answer is "three things are stopping me from using automation:
1) trusting something beyond my direct control (which is also a challenge when I decide to delegate or outsource specific tasks to human beings);
2) not wanting to replace one job (i.e.bookkeeping) with another job computer operation and troubleshooting) with a significant investment needed before I start saving time and money; and
3) a feeling that I am being disloyal to human workers if I replace them with automation (As sentimental as that might sound)."

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Irene Hackett 29/10/2016 · #7

I remember when outsourcing became the distrupter in the world of Accounting. Collections was first, then Accounts Payable, Sales Tax and Property Tax filings, etc. But Full Service Accounting outsourcing can be a slippery slope. Not unlike the decision to hire someone else to manage your personal finances, it may be that no one can manage your finances better than oneself. The farther removed one is from personal commitment to an Organization's overall success, the more potential for sloppy financial results, which could be costly. True, bookkeeping is the elementary aspect of an Organization's financial statements, however, mistakes can be so costly that a business can 'go under' or suffer a 'big hit' due to lack of human review and analysis of the transactions. Examples: in the States, not appropriately accruing for sales tax liabilities on vendor invoices where none was charged or not disposing of retired assets from the books can mean big property tax liability. Robots may adequately perform the large volume, low complexity transactions - however, nothing can replace the proper analytical review of those transactions, to determine reasonableness in trends and anomalies as compared to an intimate understanding of the Business and Accounting knowledge. In conclusion, automation of transactions is smart, trusting the result without adequate internal audit is not.

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Anders Liu-Lindberg 29/10/2016 · #5

#4 Thanks, Donna! Indeed accountants need to consider where their career is going.

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Donna-Luisa Eversley 29/10/2016 · #4

@Anders Liu-Lindberg... very interesting . I will share with my son who is an accountant for a retailer.

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