Armanino COVID-19 Tracking Tool Moves to Phase Two

Following an initial launch in May, San Ramon, Calif.-based IPA 100 firm Armanino LLP has rolled out an upgraded iteration of its COVID Recovery Tracker tool, which captures county-by-county COVID-19 case trends in real time to get sense of where there are increases in infections versus areas in decline or holding steady. Phase two adds pertinent foot traffic, home versus away and transportation data to the tool, providing users with a more detailed view of rolling new cases, state guidance updates and traffic patterns as parts of the country reopen for business.

Foot traffic data is measured by location type, including everything from airports and hotels to office spaces and child day cares to bars, restaurants and retail spaces. The home versus away tracker uses GPS ‘pings’ from anonymous mobile devices to measure if people are staying at home (the nighttime location of the device), or when out, how long they are away from home. And the new transportation tracker uses driving, walking or mass transit data to detect trends in how people are moving from place to place.

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EisnerAmper Rolls Out Blueprint for Social Distancing

As companies begin returning to physical offices, New York-based IPA 100 firm EisnerAmper has created a new COVID-19 workplace distancing solution to help them do so safely.

Developed by the firm’s enterprise technology and information group primarily for offices of 50 to 500 workers, the new tool helps create office floor plans designed to assist companies with social distancing, scheduling and entry/exit protocols. The solution can assist with assigning entry/exit times for teams and colleagues, measuring and visualizing distancing and adjusting to fluctuating distancing parameters.

“We’re extremely excited and proud to be part of the fight against COVID-19 with our Workplace Distancing Solution,” says EisnerAmper CEO Charly Weinstein. “Beyond its many analytical benefits, this tool can also help organizations strongly convey a focus on health and safety.”

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Armanino Teams With Tugboat Logic on Security Audit Process

San Ramon, Calif.-based Armanino LLP, an IPA 100 firm, is partnering with security assurance company Tugboat Logic to provide an integrated, streamlined and expedited security audit process.

The goal is to better ensure the required independence between the entities conducting audit readiness and audit examination in third-party attestations such as SOC 2 and ISO 27001 by offering a coordinated process that allows for a smoother handoff between readiness and the examination, while also maintaining the integrity of checks and balances.

Tugboat helps organizations with the “readiness phase” of the audit process with an automated risk assessment survey, a centralized operations readiness dashboard for policies and controls and a suite of third-party integrations and modules that continuously gather evidence in support of the audit. Armanino then reviews this information and collaborates with the client remotely via an integrated platform to clarify and confirm what evidence has been submitted, what evidence was accepted and what evidence tasks require more information.

“One of the main factors that delay audits is our clients suffering in silence since they may not understand some of the evidence requests from the auditor,” says Armanino partner Liam Collins. “With Tugboat Logic, Armanino auditors can prevent this by having a real-time dashboard of the audit progress, and a simple way for our clients to ask questions to our auditors when they are unsure of a request. This helps speed up audits by up to 50%.”

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Cohen & Company Launches New Stablecoin Website

Cleveland-based Cohen & Company, an IPA 100 firm, is launching a new website designed to provide transparent reporting to the stablecoin market. Available to the general public, Stableinsight (stableinsight.cohencpa.com) allows visitors to select from certain stablecoins, view the current and historic circulating coins and the collateral balance backing the coins.

The website uses data provided by third parties who have hired independent accounting firms to provide reports on their system and organization controls. Investors can use the site to monitor and confirm the number of coins listed are fully backed by fiat currencies or other collateral as prescribed by the coin issuer.

“We pride ourselves on being the leader in the alternative investment space,” says Corey McLaughlin, national MP for alternative investments. “Our clients and colleagues depend on our knowledge and experience to continue to be forward-thinking and providing the tools needed to navigate our market. Our team goes beyond traditional audit and tax services to offer these services and tools – with the launch of this website we are honoring that commitment.”

The 411 on AI

Given the growing buzz surrounding the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to disrupt some of the traditional areas of the profession, the AICPA has teamed up with Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) to release two new white papers exploring the evolving role of AI in auditing.

The first paper, A CPA’s Introduction to AI: From Algorithms to Deep Learning, What You Need to Know, acts as a foundational resource for auditors seeking information on what AI is, how it works and what it can do. The second, The Data-Driven Audit: How Automation and AI are Changing the Audit and the Role of the Auditor, shows how AI will directly affect assurance engagements by taking over repetitive tasks, improving efficiency and assessing vast pools of data.

“Like all sophisticated technology, artificial intelligence carries great potential,” says Amy Pawlicki, AICPA’s vice president of assurance and advisory innovation. “CPAs are already playing a key role in harnessing and maximizing AI’s benefits in the public interest, and those who are knowledgeable about AI and how to get the most out of it will increasingly be in great demand.”

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Tech Experts Weigh In On How Blockchain May Change Business

By this point, nearly everyone has heard or read of blockchain’s potential to revolutionize many of the practices and processes of the business world. But for many people, the specifics of how this may unfold – that is, the practical, real-world examples of just how the technology may be deployed – – are still in short supply.

That’s why Forbes recently asked its Technology Council members to share some of the very real ways they believe blockchain either has changed or will change business. Here are a few of the best:

Data Collaboration and Control

Blockchain can bridge the natural tension between collaboration and data control by acting as a system of record – like a collaborative SQL database – allowing companies to do business without having to trust partners or third parties not to corrupt mission-critical data.

Decentralized Finance

Ecosystems of financial applications built on top of blockchain networks can shift the custody of assets from banks to software, offering the potential to enhance economic activity worldwide.

Supply Chain Management

Blockchain can provide accurate, authenticated and transparent transactions with predictable, pre-approved fees and full auditability, lowering costs by removing intermediaries, increasing reliability by distributing the ledger and reducing fraud because transactions are immutable and irrevocable.

Data Connection

Because a company’s data is transparent to all parties that participate in a blockchain, chain participants can potentially see all costs, transactions and inventory between competitors, suppliers and customers, allowing for a more fair and competitive market without regulatory and middleman cost.

Cross-Industry Data Consolidation

Different businesses can cooperate with each other more effectively thanks to the connections between data storage and data users from multiple domains enabled by a single blockchain network, helping them to overcome discrepancies and create a unified, fully transparent and safe data flow.

User Authentication

Using blockchain for user authentication in digital channels provides the combination of a trusted, tamper-proof distributed ledger along with verified credentials, enabling people to have trusted, portable digital identities that they can use on any website – from their bank to their health care provider.

Human Resources

Blockchain can remove inefficiencies associated with hiring and paying employees, allowing candidates to securely update information as HR verifies credentials.

PwC Looking at Employee Stress Levels

As stress levels related to the ongoing pandemic continue to ramp up, Big 4 firm PwC is looking to use AI and psychological analysis technology to help employees monitor their mental health and overall well-being.

Starting in the UK, the firm is rolling out an AI wristband to staff members that will track the wearer’s pulse, sleep and exercise patterns to determine how well they recover from heightened anxiety levels. This collected data will be supplemented with psychological tests and information about participants’ work loads to determine if patterns exist between certain behaviors and reactions.

PwC introduced the voluntary program to UK employees in mid-May, with more than 2,000 individuals signing on to be test subjects (double the capacity for the test program). As the results of these trials start to come in, the firm believes the technology may also be rolled out to clients at some point.

New CPA Website Domains Available Beginning July 1

CPA firms looking to use a new .cpa website domain can begin doing so as of July 1. The AICPA was awarded the top-level designation this month to allow firms to ensure visitors that such a site is confirmed to be affiliated with the CPA profession.

The .cpa extension will be “restricted” meaning that anyone utilizing .cpa will have to be vetted and verified, as opposed to .com extensions that are largely unrestricted. With so many .com domains given out freely, hackers can more easily and anonymously create “lookalike” websites and email addresses with slightly different .com names to lure unsuspecting visitors.

To move to the CPA restricted domain, a firm will transition from using its current .com address to a .cpa address, allowing it to take advantage of future security protocols for top-level domains. In addition, the AICPA will vet and only authorize proven CPA entities, helping firms to avoid “cybersquatters” that reserve the most common .com names to try and sell them at a premium. Firms can continue to hold their .com domain and forward emails/web queries to their new .cpa domain as long as they keep their registration current.

The cost to reserve a .cpa domain is approximately $195, and more information is available at https://domains.cpa.com.

PCAOB Provides Guidance on Audits Involving Cryptoassets

Noting an increase in the number of transactions involving cryptoassets, PCAOB has released a document highlighting considerations for auditors of issuers transacting in or holding cryptoassets. This may include firms that are earning fees for validating new blocks on a blockchain, purchasing goods or services in exchange for cryptoassets, exchanging one cryptoasset for another or selling cryptoassets for a fiat currency (such as the U.S. dollar).

In addition to addressing certain responsibilities under PCAOB standards, the document also suggests questions that audit committees may consider asking their auditors when transactions involving cryptoassets are material to an issuer’s financial statements.

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MNP Acquires Applied Data Company T4G

In a move to bolster its digital transformation services, Calgary, Alberta-based MNP has acquired applied data services company T4G, which operates four offices across Canada.

Founded in 1996 by David Posluns and Geoff Flood – both of whom will join MNP as part of the acquisition – T4G helps businesses to collect, organize and use their data to drive growth, gain competitive advantage and increase market share. The company’s solutions focus largely on the areas of business intelligence and analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, modern data engineering and developing intelligent applications and AI tools that businesses can use to automate tasks, empower employees and engage with their customers.

“Business goals remain broadly the same from one decade to the next – companies are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently, engage effectively with customers and to continue to grow – but the tools available to support their journey are changing rapidly,” says Tanya Knight, executive vice president for MNP’s clients and services. “The strategic acquisition of T4G reflects our commitment to always look for new ways, including the use of new technologies, to help our clients reach their full potential.”

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