(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)
Microsoft makes two moves in AI — which isn’t likely to replace financial advisors, we’re told — and seven other technology developments.
1. Microsoft to charge $30 a user for Copilot
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Here’s everything you need to know about Copilot. It’s going to have a big impact on your business and your clients.
2. AI unlikely to replace financial advisors
As speculation (and fear) continues to mount as to whether AI will obliterate numerous jobs done by humans, here’s one profession that might be AI-proof: financial advisor. Eric Revel of Fox Business delved into the role of financial advisors with respect to generative AI and cited commentary made by Danny Noonan of financial services firm Morningstar. Noonan perceives AI’s role as more ancillary than essential. “Clients are kind of expecting a data-driven, hyper-personalized advice delivery ecosystem but still with a human connection … . There’s going to be a role for financial advisors in that context.” (Source: Fox Business)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The conclusion by Morningstar’s team members is that they don’t foresee AI taking over the most important aspect of their jobs: advising clients on life-preserving matters such as their financial security. Do you agree? AI isn’t going to replace the good financial advisors, it will only make them better.
3. Meta, Microsoft team up on AI for businesses
Meta and Microsoft are partnering on “Llama 2” — Meta’s AI language model. Developers will have free access to Llama 2 through Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform. Llama 2 will be made available as “open source” technology. That decision has drawn some controversy as Meta has seemed to flip its position on restricting availability of its AI. “Open source drives innovation because it enables many more developers to build with new technology,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg stated. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: As AI evolves, the big tech players will have their AI-based language and data models. If your business is heavy into Facebook or Instagram and you’re looking to build more AI functionality for your users, then this is a development tool worth researching.
4. EnKash Launches ‘Olympus’
Management platform EnKash released Olympus — an industry-first 360-degree fullstack business payable, receivable & reconciliation platform that has been called a “smart digital payments platform especially designed for startups and traditional businesses.” (Source: EnKash)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The software is designed to simplify AP and AR processing. EnKash perceives a growing need to help automate payments systems of small and midsized businesses where a lack of knowledge and resources has hindered the process. Olympus comes with a “plug & play integration capability … seamlessly wraps itself atop any business’ existing accounting and enterprise resource planning software,” as detailed in a company press release. Based in India, EnKash is tapping into the digital payments system that’s soaring in Asia.
5. A cautionary tale
Here’s a cautionary story out of Wisconsin — a gas station employee received a call from someone posing as the owner. He informed the employee he needed $3,500 as an advance payment for a $14,000 delivery on its way. Convinced the call was legitimate — and after explaining he didn’t have the money — the employee took $900 in bitcoin from a safe at an adjoining restaurant and made the deposit in Green Bay as instructed by the “owner,” who turned out to be a fraud. Thanks to the attentiveness of a random passerby — a smashed window at the restaurant prompted a call to authorities who traced the call to a number in Mexico and another number with a Wisconsin area code. (Source: WALB-TV)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: OK, many questions here. There’s bitcoin — a digital currency — stored in a safe? The employee robbed a restaurant to pay for his boss’ delivery? A deposit was made in an unusual place — Green Bay? Two lessons here: The first is to test the IQ of the employees you hire. The second is to implement internal controls so that no one employee has the ability to move cash out of your business without prior, written approval from at least two others. Deepfake fraud is a growing security threat, but a little common sense can overcome this.
6. The best travel VPNs
ZDNet published a good summary of the best VPNs if you’re planning a trip. Among ZDNet’s recommendations are ExpressVPN for its extensive network in over 150 countries; IPVanishVPN because it lets the user to choose an optimal server based on their location. NordVPN is their first choice for its speed, reliability, and second layer of encryption. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Virtual private networks are specifically programmed to protect your data from potential threats on a public WiFi — such as using your laptop in an airport terminal. If you or your employees are traveling, they should always be using a VPN when connected to a public router.
7. OpenAI launches GPT-4 API for everyone
Research laboratory OpenAI announced on its Twitter feed that GPT-4 API is available to “all API paying customers.” For those immersed in open source artificial intelligence this is monumental, as it will give developers access to OpenAI’s large language model that can be applied to their own products. OpenAI plans to extend the API to new developers by the end of this month. The company will also begin to phase out older models — GPT3 — with plans to implement newer models after the new year. (Source: Ars Technia)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Although many of us have been playing with the ChatGPT interface, we’re only scratching the surface of what it can do. That’s because we’re just using external data scraped from the Internet (and cutting off at September 2021). The real power in generative AI is to use these tools with our company’s data to provide quick answers and eventually automate tasks. To do this we have to integrate ChatGPT and our databases. With the availability of the company’s API tools, and some developer assistance, we will soon really start seeing the value of AI.
8. Gmail brings in Calendly-style availability sharing
Google is merging its Calendar features with Gmail, giving users optimized messaging when sending off an email that involves scheduling. In addition Stripe — the online payments system — can now be linked with your Google Calendar for paid appointments/up-front transactions. Additionally, a Stripe account can be created via Google Calendar. (Source: TechCrunch; PYMNTS)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Users will now see the Calendar icon in the bottom right corner of an email window with two options: “Create an event” or “Offer times you’re free.” With the first, the event name is inserted into the subject line with recipients of the message added as participants (meeting descriptions will appear in the body of the email). The Stripe integration can make booking appointments and getting payments a much more seamless process.
9. Game-changing business management tool
Consulting platform AnotherZero has released an impressive all-in-one operative tool for business owners. This business management tool allows new and established businesses to integrate and manage all aspects of their operation into a contained space. The service has established a global customer base with strong feedback. (Source: MarTech Series)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: AnotherZero says it can eliminate a bunch of CRM, marketing, e-commerce and payment tools by combining all of this functionality into one platform. It’s intriguing and worth evaluating.
10. Instagram’s Twitter competitor is released
The popular photo/video sharing platform Instagram released an app called Threads. Instagram’s iteration of Twitter, Threads has been assessed as a strong competitor prior to its launch. One of the leading advantages is users can migrate their Instagram followers to Threads. From a branding standpoint the timing is ideal, since Twitter has experienced some not-so-user-friendly issues — for example, Musk’s rate limit terms. As for Threads, the immediate future looks promising. Now available on iOS. (Source: TechCrunch)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Other than personally following a bunch of hilarious accounts, I have no presence on Instagram and most of my interactions are on Twitter. But every business owner — including me — needs to keep a close eye on the new Threads social platform. If I sense that people — my customers and community — are embracing it, then I’m going to move there too.