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So, will AI be the end of the world (or at least the accounting profession)?

By In the Media, Industry, TechnologyNo Comments

Written by David Smith 
Published by Smithink on 5 May 2023
Click here to read on the Smithink website

So, will AI be the end of the world (or at least the accounting profession)?

You’d have to be a hermit without an internet connection to have missed all the noise being made about ChatGPT and other AI bots. In some people’s minds, they are harbingers of the end of the world.

They are certainly interesting. It is that interest that has seen the fastest take-up of a technology in history although, I suspect, being free and interesting has something to do with that. It seems to me there are lots of people playing with it to determine the impact on how they may operate in the future.

In some people’s minds, they could signal the end of search engines. Having consumed 30% of the internet means they can interpret the web in a far more intelligent fashion and interact with the user to enhance the information delivered.

So at a simple level, you can interact with it, ask questions, and get it to do something. In a more sophisticated fashion, you can feed it some data and get it to analyse it.

Some accountants have gotten excited about its ability to code transactions or analyse financial results. However, we already have some pretty sophisticated tools to do these things and from what I have seen the analysis that the current version of the AI bots come up with are pretty basic. However, it will only improve as more and more sophisticated models with bigger datasets are rolled out.

It might be in advisory where it will initially deliver some advantages. Posing questions about a particular issue (such as a tax issue) could be interesting. In a way, it provides another set of eyes looking at a problem. At no cost, you might find some ideas that may enable you to improve the advice that you would give a client.

Would I rely upon it? No. You need to treat what is served up to you the same as you would treat research delivered to you by a junior staff member. It may contain some helpful elements but it is likely to contain errors.

We are already seeing the IT providers starting to add AI functionality to their applications. This is perhaps where we will see some substantial efficiency gains delivered. Automating responses to client queries might be one example. Automating basic tasks inside the firm is another.

Another area of some substantial gains might be in auditing – looking for anomalies in transactions for example or perhaps assessing risk.

At the simplest level, it may help with the written word. Writing blogs for example. Below is a blog that ChatGPT wrote for me from the question “Sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm”. It’s interesting but the ideas aren’t that sophisticated in my opinion, but they’re also not dumb.

Everyone should at least fire it up and have a play. Try different things. There will be uses found that no one has even thought of yet.

Think of it as your personal cyborg who can help enhance your performance. I am firmly of the view that this technology will not replace accountants but it will definitely enhance them.

CHATGPT’s sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm (unedited)

Running an accounting firm requires more than just crunching numbers and filing taxes. To truly stand out in a crowded marketplace, you need to have sophisticated ideas and strategies that set you apart from the competition. Here are some sophisticated ideas to run an accounting firm:

  1. Emphasise value over price: Many accounting firms compete on price, which can be a race to the bottom. Instead, focus on the value you provide to clients. Highlight your expertise, your personalised service, and the ways you can help clients save money and grow their businesses. By emphasising value, you can attract clients who are willing to pay a premium for your services.
  2. Leverage technology: Technology is transforming the accounting industry, and firms that don’t embrace it risk falling behind. Consider using cloud-based accounting software that allows clients to access their financial information from anywhere, or incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into your processes. By using technology to streamline your operations and provide better service, you can gain a competitive edge.
  3. Offer specialised services: While many accounting firms offer a broad range of services, consider specialising in a particular niche. For example, you could focus on serving a specific industry, such as healthcare or real estate, or offer specialised services like forensic accounting or business valuation. By becoming an expert in a particular area, you can attract clients who are looking for specialised knowledge and expertise.
  4. Develop a strong brand: Your brand is more than just a logo or a tagline – it’s the way you present your firm to the world. Invest in developing a strong brand that reflects your values, your expertise, and your unique selling proposition. Consider hiring a branding agency to help you develop a cohesive visual identity and messaging strategy.
  5. Focus on client relationships: At the end of the day, accounting is a people business. Focus on building strong relationships with your clients by providing personalised service, being responsive to their needs, and going above and beyond to help them achieve their goals. By building a loyal client base, you can create a steady stream of referrals and repeat business.
  6. Invest in your team: Your team is the backbone of your firm, so it’s important to invest in their professional development and wellbeing. Provide opportunities for training and education, offer competitive compensation and benefits, and create a positive work culture that fosters collaboration and innovation.

In conclusion, running an accounting firm requires more than just technical expertise – it requires a strategic approach to business. By emphasising value over price, leveraging technology, offering specialised services, developing a strong brand, focusing on client relationships, and investing in your team, you can create a successful and sustainable accounting firm that stands out in a crowded marketplace.

BGL celebrates 25 years of Simple Fund

By BGL Update, Simple Fund 360, TechnologyNo Comments

BGL is proud to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its pioneering SMSF administration solution, Simple Fund.

“This is a huge milestone and I’m extremely proud of the BGL teams’ countless achievements over this time” said Ron Lesh, BGL’s Managing Director. “Simple Fund was launched on the Windows operating system in April 1997, at a time when people were still learning how to browse the internet, send emails and text messages. It’s quite remarkable to think that BGL has been part of the accounting software industry for over 30 years”.

BGL delivered many industry firsts within Simple Fund, including SMSF data feeds with BankLink, integration with share registries, the Audit Workpapers Module (co-developed with TAG Financial Services) and the first internet-enabled reporting tool, FundWeb. 

BGL’s continued investment in research and development together with its experienced team lead to the evolution of Simple Fund from desktop to cloud, with Simple Fund 360 now the leading cloud-based SMSF administration solution with sophisticated AI-powered technologies for smart data capture, categorisation and review.

“The software industry is one of the most competitive and innovative industries in the world with only a handful of companies that have stood the test of time, such as Microsoft (1975), IBM (1911), HP (1938) and Apple (1976),” added Lesh. “It’s a tribute to the team’s passion, innovation and perseverance that we remain Australia’s leading provider of SMSF, investment portfolio and company compliance management software, even after 30 years”.

BGL recognised as Best RegTech Solution

By BGL Update, TechnologyNo Comments

BGL is proud to announce it has been recognised as Best RegTech Solution in the FinTech Breakthrough Awards 2022.

“This is a sensational achievement by the BGL team. I could not be prouder of each and every one of them.” said Ron Lesh, BGL’s Managing Director. “In just over 3 months, BGL has received industry recognition from FinTech Breakthrough Awards 2022 for Best RegTech Solution, Australian Enterprise Awards 2022 for Best Accounting Software Manufacturer, Lawyer International (Legal 100) 2022 for Compliance Software Innovator of the Year – Australia and from the Global Excellence Awards 2022 for Best Fund Administration Software Provider – Australia, among many others”.

“The team has worked tirelessly to ensure our clients have the best solutions to meet their needs and these awards are a tribute to their hard work,” added Lesh. “For over 30 years BGL has been the leading provider of SMSF administration, portfolio administration and ASIC corporate compliance solutions in Australia and we would not be here without our amazing team of 180+ sensational committed professionals”. 

Coincidentally, the recognition as Best RegTech Solution comes just after BGL concluded the industry’s first major face-to-face event in almost two years, BGL REGTECH 2022. The events in Sydney (01/03), Adelaide (09/03) and Melbourne (16/03) were a huge success with over 300 clients and 21 exhibitors in attendance across the three locations, with events in Brisbane, Tasmania and maybe even Perth in the near future. 

BGL hosts major face-to-face event BGL REGTECH 2022

By BGL Update, TechnologyNo Comments

BGL hosts major face-to-face event BGL REGTECH 2022

BGL is hosting the industry’s first major face-to-face event in almost two years, BGL REGTECH 2022

“It’s been fantastic bringing our community back together after so long apart” said Ron Lesh, BGL’s Managing Director. “We felt it was really important to run BGL REGTECH 2022 in person and our clients and partners have relished the opportunity to reconnect face-to-face”. 

“Our events in Sydney (01/03) and Adelaide (09/03) have been a huge success with over 200 clients and 18 exhibitors in attendance across the two locations” added Lesh. “We expect our Melbourne event to be the biggest yet, with over 300 delegates already registered. Add to this our live-stream attendees in Queensland, Western Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, we will have over 600 people attending”. 

The BGL REGTECH 2022 line-up boasts industry experts David Boyar FCA – CEO of ChangeGPS, Aly Garrett FCA – Founder and Principal of All In Advisory and Rebecca Mihalic – Director of businessDEPOT as well as its own gurus to add their expertise to the program exploring the evolution of the accounting industry. One session also gives clients a preview of some of the new features coming to CAS 360, Simple Fund 360 and Simple Invest 360 in the near future.

BGL REGTECH 2022 will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday 16 March. Tickets are available at www.bglregtech.com

Cryptocurrency War Blog

How fighting against cryptocurrency is an unwinnable war

By BGL Update, TechnologyNo Comments

Despite the best efforts of financial regulators and threatened centralised institutions, the war on cryptocurrency seems to be unwinnable.

While cryptocurrencies may have come off the boil recently, there have been a few key events that have presented themselves that would imply they are not going to disappear completely from public view – and definitely not from investor portfolios.

Is it all a Ponzi scheme? Is it enabling criminal activity? Despite the best efforts of financial regulators and threatened centralised institutions, the war on cryptocurrency seems to be unwinnable.

In November 2021 the RBA’s head of payments, Tony Richards, was quoted in an AFR article with the usual concerns raised by institutions that are threatened by the decentralised finance movement. These were shots fired in a war against the perceived evil empire of cryptocurrency.

I too was a non-believer, silently snickering in early 2018 as Bitcoin lost almost half of its value. Since then I started small, and in more recent times there have been some key events that have made me double down on what I believe is a real area of opportunity.

Three stories that may change your mind about cryptocurrency

The CEO of Bitcoin

It must have been during a ‘snap reopening’ we had in Victoria in 2021, around August, when my daughter came home from school and told me that her friend’s mum was the CEO of Bitcoin. Wow, I thought, while Nakamoto Satoshi’s true identity is still up for debate, let’s have a look on Linkedin.

As tends to happen with news from the playground, there was some truth and some over-simplification. It turned out that the parent was a Financial Controller of a publicly listed payment and compliance company that specialised in digital assets.

Why was this significant to me? This was significant because this person had a family, a mortgage, bills to pay, and their livelihood was dependent on digital assets (cryptocurrencies) being the real deal.

Senator Jane Hume tells it how it is

During her address to the Australian Financial Review Super & Wealth Summit (Nov21), Jane Hume was direct and very clear about people who were either ignoring or trying to kill off innovation in decentralised finance – just don’t:

“Don’t be the person who thought the iPhone would never take off because people would prefer to have their music and telephone on separate devices. Don’t be the person who was still doing their financial models by hand in 2001, rather than using Excel.
Don’t be the person in 1995 who said the internet was just a place for geeks and criminals and would never become mainstream.
And don’t be the person who argued that email was a passing fad.”

~ Senator Jane HumeMinister for Women’s Economic Security, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy.

This showed to me that at least some government officials get it and are willing to stand up for what they see as an inevitable area of innovation.

The great rotation

In December 2021 a New York Times article provided evidence of a rotation that was taking place in Silicon Valley. No longer were the prestigious roles at big tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple exciting or rewarding enough for the tech workforce.

The entrepreneurial spirit is real, and these visionaries were moving on to where they saw the biggest area of opportunity: blockchain technology:

“There is a giant sucking sound coming from crypto,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, chief executive of search engine start-up Neeva and a former Google executive, who competes with crypto companies for talent. “It feels a bit like the 1990s and the birth of the internet all over again. It’s that early, that chaotic and that much full of opportunity.”

The keyword being ‘chaotic’ – with many aspects of the new world of decentralised finance (DeFi) and cryptocurrency resembling the wild west where anything goes and with great opportunity also comes great (calculated) risk.

Despite the risks, the percentage of Australians that own some form of cryptocurrency continues to increase and the industry itself locally is expanding.

Ultimately everyone needs to come to their own conclusions. Personally, I hope that we can consider the possibilities of what is new, and not just be scared by it due to it threatening ‘how things have always been done’ – after all, who among us would want to admit that we thought email was just a fad?

BGL recognised as Most Innovative Fintech Company

By BGL Update, TechnologyNo Comments

BGL is proud to announce it has been recognised as Australia’s Most Innovative Fintech Company as part of the International Investor Business Awards 2021. 

“This is a great achievement by the BGL Team to be recognised as Australia’s Most Innovative Fintech Company” said Ron Lesh, BGL’s Managing Director. “Our team has worked tirelessly through 2020/21 producing heaps of sensational software for our clients and this award is a tribute to their hard work”.

BGL has received several other industry awards in 2021 including the Core Data SMSF Software Award for Simple Fund 360, AFR Australia’s 6th Best Technology Place to Work Award and an Australian Achiever Award for Excellence in Customer Service. 

“BGL won these awards as a result of the amazing work by our team,” added Lesh. “Over the past 30 years BGL has grown to become the leading provider of SMSF administration and ASIC company compliance software solutions in Australia and we would not be here without our amazing team of 180+ sensational committed professionals”.