LinkedIn: Blockchain Technical Skills In Demand for 2020

What’s the highest-demand skill for 2020? Blockchain, says LinkedIn in a recent article. Blockchain technical skills didn’t even make the top 10 list last year, LinkedIn says.

Here’s the list of most in-demand skills:

  • Blockchain
  • Cloud computing
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • UX design
  • Business analysis
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Sales
  • Scientific computing
  • Video production

LinkedIn also listed the top five soft skills:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional intelligence

LinkedIn says blockchain has become a line of business for huge corporations such as IBM, Oracle, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Amazon and American Express. Blockchain is now being used in shipping, health care, farming, food safety, entertainment and gaming.

LinkedIn’s methodology for determining in-demand skills was based on people getting hired for high-paying jobs. The skills were extracted from their LinkedIn profiles. Cities with 100,000 LinkedIn members were included in the evaluation.

More news on Blockchain

Big 4’s Massive Technology Investments May Reinvent Accounting

The Big 4 are investing billions of dollars into technology with the intention not only to streamline their operations but to transform their identities, according to Bloomberg Tax.

“We haven’t become a pure technology firm,” Christian Rast, KPMG’s global head of technology and knowledge said in a recent phone interview with Bloomberg Tax. “We are a professional services firm, but technology is core to our future.”

The firms are focusing on artificial intelligence and data analytics while re-training their work forces at a time when accounting leaders believe the profession is undergoing a fundamental change.

“Many of the routine jobs will go, as areas such as invoice processing are automated,” says Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of business futures at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. “However, many more jobs will be created as accountants and auditors have a wealth of more information available to them. They can now check all of a company’s transactions in real time, with data analytics allowing them to spot trends and anomalies. That means accountants will be expected to become business advisers not just number checkers. They need to be on top of technology and train staff to use it.”

Some of the investments announced in 2018 and 2019:

KPMG – A $5 billion, five-year investment in automation and AI, new cloud-based technology, creating new products and training.

PwC – $3 billion over the next four years on technology and training.

Ernst & Young – A $1 billion, two-year technology investment in blockchain and automation projects.

Deloitte – Although the biggest firm in the nation hasn’t released an investment figure, it is building a niche providing automation services to law firms and legal offices.

Bruce Braude, hired in July as chief technology officer (CTO) at Deloitte Legal, says, “Each of our divisions has its own CTO so that we can work together to offer clients a technology-led solution – traditional lawyers would give a yes or no answer to whether an action was legal, whereas we can combine with other parts of the firm to offer an entire solution, as well as advising legal offices over areas such as automation.”

KPMG and EY are both looking to India to develop new technology.

Srinivasa Rao, EY’s global vice chair of global delivery services, tells Bloomberg Tax that the firm could increase staff in India by 50% over the next year, from around 50,000 today, to develop AI and analytics products in the country.

“Really this is aimed at emerging markets,” Rao says, “giving them access to things like machine learning that they can adapt for their own tax or audit products, which often have local requirements.” India will become the firm’s second largest office worldwide.

AICPA Gives Auditors Some Direction on Handling Digital Assets

The AICPA has issued guidance on how to account for digital assets.

Digital assets are defined as “digital records, made using cryptography for verification and security purposes, on a distributed ledger.” Blockchain is the distributed ledger used for crypocurrency transactions.

Because the business environment is changing so quickly and various types of crypto assets are being used more frequently, the AICPA is providing nonauthoritative guidance on how to account for these assets properly under GAAP rules. Digital assets are used for a variety of purposes, including “as a medium of exchange, as a representation to provide or access goods or services, or as a financing vehicle, such as a security, among other uses,” the AICPA says.

Ten questions and answers related to the issue are included in a free practice aid, which was developed by the AICPA’s the Digital Assets Working Group.

The AICPA notes that auditors should first think carefully about the risks and whether they have the skills needed before accepting or continuing audit engagements involving digital assets.

As additional topics are completed, the practice aid will be updated.

More news from the AICPA

Futurist, MACPA List CPA Profession’s Top Technology Trends

Daniel Burrus

Big data, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation (RPA) and cloud technologies top the list of technology trends that will impact the accounting and finance world over the next three years, according to research conducted by the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA), the Business Learning Institute and futurist Daniel Burrus.

The research began with Burrus’ Top 20 Technology-Driven Hard Trends Shaping 2018 and Beyond. Using his annual list as a starting point, MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood asked more than 3,000 CPAs and finance and accounting professionals which of those trends will have the greatest impact on the profession over the next three years. Their answers in rank order are:

  1. Big data analytics
  2. Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing in audit and tax
  3. Advanced cloud computing
  4. Virtualization and automation of processes and services
  5. Mobile apps for business processes
  6. Adaptive and predictive cybersecurity
  7. Mobile banking and payments
  8. Smarter smartphones and tablets
  9. Blockchains and cryptocurrency
  10. Virtualization of desktop and storage

“This year’s list saw some major changes as big data analytics rose to the top of the list, replacing artificial intelligence and cognitive computing,” says Hood in a statement. “Advanced cloud computing and mobile applications rose a few slots, indicating the increasing number of cloud applications and adoption by the accounting and finance profession.”

Tom Hood

“Keep in mind that these are hard trends, or future facts, that will happen whether we like them or not,” Hood adds. “Dan Burrus distinguishes these from the ‘soft trends’ that may happen. These core concepts are being used by accounting and finance professionals to see the visible future and identify opportunities before we get disrupted by the exponential pace of these technologies.”

Burrus says, “These trends highlight enormous, game-changing opportunities in a broad array of applications and industries. As you read through them, look for opportunities for you to leverage them and become a positive disruptor.”

Hood adds a word of advice. “Don’t stop at the trends impacting your firm or company. Stop and think about how these trends are impacting your clients and customers, both internally and externally. Think about the hard trends facing your industry and your customers’ industries.”

These seemingly individual technologies are joining forces to disrupt the accounting and finance profession exponentially. The impact of artificial intelligence is huge, but when combined with blockchain, for instance, its impact increases tenfold … at least. This “10x mindset” will be vital going forward, Hood says.

The MACPA says the hard trends can be turned into opportunities through its Business Learning Institute’s curriculum, The Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance Edition.

Baker Tilly Launches New Practice to Help Clients with Digital Disruption

Chicago-based Baker Tilly (FY19 net revenue of $754.8 million) has launched Baker Tilly Digital, which brings together the firm’s analytic and advanced technology services.

Baker Digital is designed to help clients stay ahead of digital disruption. Baker Tilly CEO Alan Whitman says, “Keeping pace with new technology and making decisions today to shape tomorrow is never easy. We lean into and guide our clients through the complexities of digital disruption and the possibilities it brings.”

Baker Tilly Digital encompasses analytics, cloud strategies, connected devices, emerging technologies, intelligent automation, digital enterprise and Digital | Labs – an incubator for development of next-generation tools and services. The team includes data scientists, intelligent

Baker Tilly helped an aerospace and defense equipment manufacturer use advanced analytics, the firm says. “Before, I was watching 52 planes manually, which took me all day,” the fleet analytics manager of the company said. “After implementing the solution, I’m able to actively monitor the health of more than 400 planes using only 50% of my day. That extra time frees me up to tackle other critical issues that need my attention.”

More news from Baker Tilly

Freelance-accounting Startup Paro Raises $10 Million

Paro, considered a matchmaker for freelance accountants and mid-market companies, has raised $10 million, led by a Silicon Valley venture fund called Sierra Ventures.

The Chicago-based company plans to double staff in the next year to provide corporate clients with on-demand experts across a range of financial functions. The company, which started three years ago, has grown to 65 employees from about 25 a year ago, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Founder Michael Burdick, a former Deloitte consultant, says the company has thousands of freelancers and hundreds of clients, mostly middle-market companies looking for particular expertise. Paro handles billing for the freelancers and provides software to help them manage their businesses.

“Professionals want flexibility, but it really sucks to freelance,” says Burdick, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. “You spend 40% to 60% of your time doing business development, invoicing clients.”

Tech Crunch reports that Burdick calls Paro “a freelancer operating system.” Burdick says that Paro focuses on elite financial talent, leading to higher margins.

Online labor marketplaces targeting business functions have grown dramatically in popularity in recent years, observers say.

blumshapiro Announces Merger with SunBlock Systems

West Hartford, Conn.-based blumshapiro (FY18 net revenue of $83.4 million) has merged with SunBlock Systems as a division of blumshapiro. SunBlock is a cybersecurity, digital forensics, business intelligence and technology consulting firm in Reston, Va.

“With the addition of SunBlock Systems, we are significantly increasing our capabilities by providing clients with world-class expertise in the ever-growing area of global security and intelligence,” says CEO Joseph A. Kask. “SunBlock’s ability to protect clients’ key assets and further their business interests in both the cyber and physical worlds is integral in today’s digital world and complements blum’s cybersecurity, forensic and investigative services.”

SunBlock’s areas of expertise include digital forensics, eDiscovery, cyber intelligence and deep and dark web monitoring, due diligence and investigative support, cyber breach investigations and technology consulting.

David Sun, CEO of SunBlock Systems says, “With blum’s resources we will expand our cutting-edge technology to help our clients protect their organizations from cyber threats, gain a tactical advantage against litigation opponents and competitors, and assure regulatory and legal compliance.”

SunBlock consults on complex technical and legal issues, often serving as an expert witness for its clients. It has investigated or supported investigations into many of the best-known corporate malfeasance cases since the first Bush administration.

More news from blumshapiro 

Introhive, PwC Offering AI Services

Introhive, an enterprise relationship management (ERM) provider, is expanding its relationship with Big 4 firm PwC to offer AI-powered relationship intelligence.

The joint business relationship (JBR) began in the U.K. late last year, and has expanded to Canada and the U.S., with plans to expand into Europe.

The collaboration is intended to help increase employee productivity and grow revenue with the help of a more streamlined process, AI-powered data automation and relationship intelligence solutions for Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Introhive reports.

“PwC is truly pioneering the way organizations drive digital transformation at a global scale,” says Stewart Walchli, Introhive co-founder and business development leader. “Not only are they delivering leading-edge solutions for their clients, but they are leading by example with their own global deployment success.”

The software eliminates data entry and fills the system with complete customer data and relationship insights. We’re eager to take our proven solution to market to help other organizations with their own transformation.”

“Introhive has been a key component to our front office transformation strategy. The power of relationship data science was evident from our first deployment five years ago and has helped us to drive a successful global deployment of Salesforce,” says PwC’s Global Centre of Excellence and consulting partner Philip Grosch. He adds that the software eliminates data entry and fills the system with complete customer data and relationship insights. “We’re eager to take our proven solution to market to help other organizations with their own transformation.”

IPA Vendor Spotlight On . . . LeaseCrunch

Name: Ane Ohm

Ane Ohm

Ane Ohm

Company: LeaseCrunch

Title: CEO

How is LeaseCrunch impacted by delaying the new lease standard implementation for non-public companies?

Interest in our lease accounting software hasn’t slowed. CPA firms are successfully using the software to work through implementations for both public and privately held organizations, with many more firms telling us they’re working to keep momentum going with clients despite the delay.

To help those firms encourage clients to start now – rather than facing a time crunch again next year – we’re actually offering a 2-for-1 pricing promotion until the end of 2019.  

What are some lessons learned by public companies that have already adopted the standard?

There are many. Here are the top ones that come to mind:

  • Completeness. Properly identifying all leases across all locations is more complicated than many expected. There are so many things to consider about each lease, including lease and non-lease components, lease and renewal term, common area maintenance, embedded leases, and more.
  • Timeframe. Due to the complexity of the standard, including the process of abstracting data from leases, I’m hearing the entire implementation process is taking about three times longer than most organizations anticipated.
  • Impact to Users of Financial Statements. Don’t forget about potential impacts to banking relationships. Now that you’re adding lease liabilities to your financial statements, it could impact loan covenants. The best approach is communicating with financial institutions early in the process.
  • Practical Expedients. The FASB provided a number of practical expedients and we strongly encourage organizations to adopt as many as feasible. It will simplify the entire implementation and adoption process.

I’ve always successfully managed my leases in a spreadsheet. Can I do the same for the new lease standard?

Unfortunately, no – at least I would strongly recommend against it. And I’m not just saying that as the CEO of a lease accounting software platform. I’m also a former PwC auditor and I can’t imagine having to audit all those complex calculations in a spreadsheet. 

Here are the main reasons that spreadsheets simply aren’t feasible for implementing the new lease standard and managing your leases thereafter:

  • Complex calculations: There are many complicated components of the new lease standard, particularly with the quantitative footnote disclosures that include a weighted average discount rate and weighted average remaining term.
  • Navigating nuances: Another benefit of using software over spreadsheets is the guidance you get to add context or explain more complicated parts of the new standard. Spreadsheets don’t offer that assistance.
  • Enormously time-consuming: It is much more time-consuming to manage the new lease standard in a spreadsheet as it has no pre-built calculations or workflows. 
  • Version and calculation control: When multiple departments and people are responsible for lease data, it can be difficult to share spreadsheets and have confidence that everyone is using the latest version.
  • Lack of validation or security: A spreadsheet has no built-in data validations and minimal security options.

How does LeaseCrunch work?

LeaseCrunch is an easy-to-use lease accounting software built specifically to simplify the new lease standard. We designed it to be both affordable and scalable for CPA firms to use with clients of all sizes. Features include:

  • Simplified policy election templates
  • Lease classification and lease term wizards
  • Easy, quick data entry
  • Tool tips to guide the user through the process and answer questions about the new standard
  • Error- and worry-free calculations (verified by an Agreed-Upon Procedures report)
  • Automated journal entries and qualitative footnote disclosures

What are people saying about LeaseCrunch?

Here is a case study from a regional bank and another one from an IPA 100 CPA firm. Other clients and observers have shared the following with us:

  • “Very user-friendly.”
  • “This looks like what we need.” 
  • “I close my eyes and this is what I picture when it comes to lease accounting software… extremely intuitive.” 
  • “This is outstanding, very impressive.”
  • “You just relieved a lot of my stress.”
  • “We wanted a software solution to make our life easier and someone we could lean on for help… LeaseCrunch fits that bill.”

Survey Finds Consumers Not Yet Comfortable with Disruptive Technologies

A new survey says that consumers are seven times more likely to use their credit card on a weekly basis than a mobile wallet.

This suggests that consumers are adopting disruptive technologies slowly, according to Global X ETFs, which provides exchange-traded funds, and recently released a survey of 500 consumers.

“Overall adoption and comfort level with many disruptive technologies remains low across generations,” the survey says. “This could be due to consumers waiting for the technology to become more established, for prices to fall or they are simply entrenched in their current habits.”

Consumers have embraced online shopping more than any other digital disruption, but 1 in 5 say they’re not comfortable purchasing almost anything online without having seen the item in person first.

Adoption of other disruptive technologies, such as the internet of things and electric vehicles is just beginning. Respondents indicated that less than 1 in 10 operate smart home devices like home security cameras (8%), lighting (7%), climate control (6%) or kitchen appliances (3%) from their smart phone. Also, less than 5% of consumers use an electric vehicle on at least a weekly basis.

“What stands out is that we’re still very clearly in the early stages of these technologies fully disrupting the legacy segments of the economy,” says Jay Jacobs, head of research and strategy at Global X. “Technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that consumers are still familiarizing themselves with these revolutionary products.”

On the whole, Millennials are most comfortable with new technologies. They are much more likely to use mobile payments platforms on a regular basis, with 31% indicating weekly usage of mobile wallets, and 27% for peer-to-peer payments. By contrast, only 6% and 1% of Baby Boomers used these services weekly, respectively.

Millennials again showed more comfort with the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on job prospects. Over a third (37%) expect any automation in their job to be a net positive, and just 18% expect a negative impact. Baby Boomers were the most negative, with 19% expecting a positive change, and 17% expecting a negative one.