Applied Artificial Intelligence Leader Joins Grant Thornton

JT Kostman Ph.D.

JT Kostman, Ph.D., an internationally recognized leader in cognitive computing, applied artificial intelligence and data strategy, has joined Chicago-based Grant Thornton (FY17 net revenue of $1.75 billion) as managing director of applied artificial intelligence.

In this new role, Kostman will lead the development and delivery of artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, blockchain, and advanced analytic solutions and services for the firm and Grant Thornton clients. He will be based in the firm’s Iselin, N.J., office.

Kostman is a data scientist, mathematician and psychologist renowned for his expertise in applied artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. He has served as chief data officer and a member of the executive committee for Time Inc., chief data scientist for Samsung, and chief data scientist and big data psychologist for Aptus Insights. In addition to his corporate experience, Kostman has served U.S. intelligence, security and defense agencies, including the CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, as well as President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

“Grant Thornton and I are like-minded in our views on the potential for artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, and robotics to improve operations and create new opportunities,” Kostman said in a statement. “We share a commitment to helping enterprises move past the hype and focus on how they can use these technologies to improve their businesses. It’s all about bottom-line outcomes.”

EisnerAmper Joins Accounting Blockchain Coalition

EisnerAmper Risk Solutions, a subsidiary of New York-based EisnerAmper (FY18 net revenue of $360 million), announces that it has joined the Accounting Blockchain Coalition (ABC).

The ABC is dedicated to educating businesses and organizations on accounting matters relevant to digital assets and distributed ledger technology, including blockchain. As an ABC member, EisnerAmper will collaborate with other industry leaders to work on issues impacting the accounting industry, publish a set of best practices, help develop guidelines and more. The ABC is working to evolve into the primary industry resource and community for organizations involved with blockchains in accounting.

“We’re excited to join the ABC,” says EisnerAmper Partner Alan Frank. “It further establishes our firm in the blockchain space, and it offers our specialists a variety of valuable resources for us to stay on the leading edge of blockchain in the accounting and tax areas, which will benefit our clients tremendously.”

EisnerAmper Launches Process, Risk and Technology Solutions

From compliance to technology to operational risk, company leadership is constantly identifying challenges in assessing, preventing and mitigating the evolving threats that confront their companies daily. That’s why New York-based EisnerAmper (FY18 net revenue of $360.7 million) has launched a suite of process, risk and technology solutions to connect a company’s operational, financial and technological departments.

EisnerAmper professionals offer the following services:

  • Internal audit and regulatory compliance – Increase the efficiency of active programs, modernize internal audit processes and procedures, and perform risk assessments to identify internal control gaps.
  • IT risk and cybersecurity – Methodically examine technology, operations, services, goals and objectives. Offer pragmatic solutions and an action plan to control risks surrounding security and privacy, financial processes and reporting, and business processes and compliance.
  • Digital solutions and process transformation – Assess current processes and identify technology integration opportunities including artificial intelligence, robotics process automation, service with software and other emerging technologies.

“Our process, risk and technology solutions professionals are far more than IT advisors,” says national practice leader Jerry Ravi. These industry experts will take a 360-degree view of a client’s risk-exposure points and provide a detailed roadmap to help them fortify and enhance their business and performance outcomes.”

Xero Acquires Hubdoc

Cloud accounting software maker Xero has announced that it has acquired Hubdoc.

“This means we’ll be able to accelerate delivering Xero’s vision for code-free accounting. We want to help accountants and bookkeepers focus their efforts on making sense of a small business’ financial data – not collecting it,” Xero announced.

Hubdoc is used to streamline administrative tasks such as financial document collection and data entry. Xero says the benefits to the combination are streamlined data capture, real-time financial data and organized and verified data.

The Hubdoc team will continue to operate on a stand-alone basis until the products are integrated. “Over the longer term, customers can expect to see a deeper, more powerful integration between the Xero and Hubdoc platforms. While we’re excited about this integration, it’s also important to note that Xero will always be an open ecosystem. That means that customers have the choice to use the apps that best meet their individual needs,” Xero says in a release.

EY Buys Crypto-Assets Tax Tool to Audit Blockchains

In an effort to expand blockchain-related services, Ernst & Young (EY) has acquired crypto-related technology assets, which include the Crypto-Asset Accounting and Tax (CAAT) technology, according to CCN.com.

The technology, developed by San Francisco-based Elevated Consciousness, links with multiple cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges and improves transparency of transactions and inventory.

EY says the CAAT tool will allow the firm to serve various organizations that are adopting crypto-assets by helping them better assess the risk associated with the reporting of taxable income for crypto assets.

“We plan to integrate the CAAT tool into our Blockchain Analyzer portfolio to develop one of the industry’s broadest sets of technology and process services in tax and assurance,” says EY’s global innovation leader for blockchain, Paul Brody.

The technology targets businesses that use cryptocurrencies, giving EY audit teams the ability to collect the entire transaction data of an organization from multiple blockchain ledgers. Some of the cryptocurrencies that Blockchain Analyzer was developed to test include Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.

Crowe, Purdue Polytechnic Institute Announce Digital Risk Collaboration

Chicago-based Crowe (FY18 net revenue of $883.6 million) and the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT) at Purdue Polytechnic Institute recently established the Purdue-Crowe Digital Risk Collaboratory. The culmination of two years of work, this collaboratory will serve to develop opportunities in sponsored and government-funded research, with both sides working together on select Crowe client projects and services.

Combining the client engagement experience of Crowe with Purdue’s world-class research, faculty and students, the collaboratory will undertake joint projects for new clients, conduct federal and nonfederal research on digital risk issues and provide education. CIT faculty, staff and students will work closely with Crowe personnel to develop and test new risk management solutions for the digital age. The collaboratory is also developing executive training courses on how to manage digital risk for business executives.

“Leveraging our client leadership with Purdue’s research leadership is an outstanding value proposition,” says Steve Strammello, MP, Crowe risk consulting. “We’re investing in a future where our clients can maximize the adoption of digital-era tools and technologies while minimizing the risks associated with digital transformation. We believe this alliance will advance how organizations manage risk as they transform their businesses into the digital age.”

“The decision to collaborate is a bold and aggressive move by both sides to establish a more extensive foundation for digital and cyber risks, creating real-world application opportunities for ongoing research and projects,” says Marcus Rogers, head of CIT. “The collaboratory solidifies that exchange of ideas and the public-private partnership concept.”

Purdue’s internationally renowned strengths, including robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and technology-enabled learning, allow for a multidisciplinary approach to meet future challenges. Work continues on setting up a mutually beneficial location for the collaboratory.

To learn more, visit Crowe risk consulting cybersecurity.

UHY Advisors Announces Alliance with Glasswall

Chicago-based UHY Advisors Inc. (FY17 net revenue of $140.8 million) announced has announced that the firm has formed a strategic alliance with the UK-based Glasswall Solutions Limited, a technology company that has developed an industry-leading solution providing unique protection against file-based cyber threats. This alliance further augments UHY’s industry-leading risk advisory services practice.

Glasswall’s technology breaks the detection paradigm of signature-based defences. Rather than looking for ‘known bad’, Glasswall allows only ‘known good’ in business documents, using its patent-protected d-FIRST™ methodology of deep-file inspection, remediation and sanitisation. Unlike signature-based technologies, Glasswall is able to eliminate all types of document attacks and zero-day malware, providing unparalleled Advance Threat Protection allied with detailed Threat Intelligence data.

As part of the alliance, UHY will provide professional services, including interfacing with clients, managing the implementation of the technology, and acting as the point of contact for clients after installation of the product.

Glasswall’s team of professionals will conduct an initial risk assessment of an enterprise’s current security posture then develop the production design based on the client’s infrastructure and operational needs. They will work closely with UHY to outline and ultimately initiate the rollout of the updated security system.

“The Glasswall solution is unique and will greatly benefit any organization looking to improve their cybersecurity framework,” says Warren Zafrin, a leader in the risk advisory services practice at UHY. “This software delivers value to all areas of the business: security, compliance, audit, governance and risk, and will help our clients on a global scale, including both private enterprises across industries as well as government and governmental institutions.”

“We are excited to form an alliance with an innovative cybersecurity firm and offer clients state of the art comprehensive cybersecurity services,” says Michael Mahoney, CEO of UHY. “This offering will benefit clients as we advise them on how to mitigate emerging cyber threats from both a strategic and logistical perspective.”

Digital Transformation Joins List of Challenges Finance Leaders Face

Digital transformation emerged prominently in 2017 as a critical business focus, according to the Benchmarking Accounting and Finance Functions: 2018 report from Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) and global staffing firm Robert Half.

Over half of the financial executives surveyed in the United States (59%) and Canada (52%) said they will maintain their current staffing levels due to digital transformation. Seventeen percent of U.S. respondents and 22% of Canadian respondents are proactively adding to their teams over the next 12 months to address digital transformation needs.

“Digital transformation is affecting businesses in many areas, including staffing,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “With the growing need for skilled talent in North America and the limited pool of candidates, retention is paramount. Leaders need to ensure employees are engaged, challenged and developing the skills they need to advance in the organization as the business evolves.”

The survey also identified other key trends:

  • Organizations are automating processes for functions such as invoicing, data collection, report generation, document storage and compliance. Some firms also expect to automate financial planning and forecasting through predictive reporting within the next three years.
  • Competency in data analytics shows the greatest demand. Nontechnical skills such as communication and collaboration are also coveted by employers today.
  • The use of cloud-based solutions continues to rise. Seventy-five percent of U.S. respondents and 73% of Canadian respondents are currently using or planning to deploy these services in the future.
  • More than half of the U.S. and Canadian firms surveyed still rely on manual processes for accounts reconciliation, but those percentages are declining.

“Technology continues to impact the day-to-day responsibilities of financial professionals across all levels,” says Andrej Suskavcevic, president and CEO of FEI and FERF. “However, what the report indicates is that there is a continued — and in some cases rising — need for skilled strategic thinkers and communicators to manage functions that computations cannot, as well as to interpret and apply output from tech solutions.”

Suskavcevic says, “We are seeing a growing demand for well-rounded financial executives who are able to develop and execute a broad vision that is enabled by technological advancements. How do we best take advantage of the digital age? Individuals capable of creatively answering that question will excel in today’s financial leadership roles.”

SAP Launches Leonardo Blockchain, Cloud Blockchain Platform

SAP has launched a blockchain-as-a-service platform called SAP Leonardo Blockchain, which will allow corporate customers to use blockchain technology to create networks and applications.

SAP Leonardo Blockchain will support Hyperledger Fabric and MultiChain, and will be built on top of SAP’s SAP HANA data management system, according to the official announcement.

Gil Perez, SAP’s senior VP for product and innovation and head of digital customer service initiatives, explained that SAP will be more flexible as the blockchain market evolves by not committing to any one underlying distributed ledger technology.

Twenty-seven new members were accepted by SAP last fall to its blockchain program in order to integrate the technology into the IoT, manufacturing and supply chain solutions.

Catholic Church Looking Into Blockchain Processes

A new group called Catholic Blockchain wants to put the revolutionary potential of blockchain technology to improve transparency, help the poor and streamline processes, uCatholic reported.

One of its co-founders, Brantly Millegan, explained: “We believe blockchain technology is one of the most important innovations of the last ten years, and the Catholic Church, as the world’s largest global organization, is uniquely placed to benefit from using it.”

He lists five ways the church could use blockchain:

Empowering the poor in the developing world ­– “Download a free app and you can send and receive cryptocurrency all over the world – and do it exponentially faster and cheaper than you could do it even if you had the most developed banking system.”

Fast, cheap, secure international payments – “It might still be faster and cheaper to send someone cryptocurrency and have them exchange it for their local currency in a local exchange, rather than send them government currency through the international money transfer system.”

Secure long-term storage of important information – “It’s very important to the life of the church that the church knows who has received certain sacraments like baptism, confirmation, holy matrimony and holy orders. And yes, it can be done in a secure and private way so that the information isn’t public – only accessible to the people who need it.”

Financial transparency – “Cryptocurrencies can be used in such a way that all transactions are public. If Catholics could donate to Catholic causes or funds, knowing that where the money was spent could be publicly verified, that could relieve a lot of concerns.”

Unlocking value in property and assets – “Let’s say a Catholic diocese had some non-parish property, and the bishop wanted to unlock some of the value of the property without completely selling it. Blockchain technology makes it easier to sell off just, say, 40%, and in small chunks to many investors. That way, the diocese could maintain control of the property, but get some of its value today.”

Millegan says, “Much of the church is still playing catch-up on old-news technologies like websites, smartphones and social media. We need to do a better job of taking seriously new up-and-coming technologies before we’re already behind. And we believe blockchain technology should be near the top of the list.”