Law Firms Turning to Tech to Innovate Client Service

The law firm Reed Smith is rewarding lawyers who innovate.

A team at Reed Smith has developed an app that allows clients to assess risk from suspected data breaches, Bloomberg’s Big Law Business reported, and attorneys can receive up to 50 hours of billable credit for participating in the initiative.

Bloomberg cites the incentive program as an example of how law firms are using tech not only to streamline routine services, but also to improve how they deliver services and remake themselves as innovators.

“This is investing in the business to improve how things work, not pro bono work for clients,” Lucy Dillon, the firm’s chief knowledge officer, told Big Law Business. “We are trying to improve the quality of our services and of our output, and technology helps us to do it more quickly and efficiently.”

The app, Breach RespondeRS, allows mid-size companies and individual clients to learn about related law notification requirements, which differ from state to state. The information can help them decide whether, and how, to notify customers about data breaches that may have occurred. The app is available on the firm website.

Here are other examples of innovation in the legal arena:

  • In March, Hogan Lovells created a partnership with an outside provider to offer clients on-demand lawyers for hire. “We are planning to expand it to the United States and continental Europe starting this fall. Clients have shown a lot of interest so we are accelerating the rollout,” says Stephen Allen, the firm’s head of legal services delivery in London.
  • Allen & Overy has a partnership with Deloitte accounting firm to support a compliance system that helps clients follow relevant laws in whatever countries are involved in a deal or project. The firm, working with an outside provider, launched Margin Xchange, an online platform to assure legal conformity for documents related to derivatives.
  • White & Case joined forces with a data services company and in January 2017 launched a free tool called the M&A Explorer, available on the law firm’s website to allow clients and the public to explore a decade’s worth of data about mergers and acquisitions.

KPMG and Google Enter an Alliance to Help Organizations Transform Digital Experiences

New York-based KPMG (FY16 gross revenue of $8.6 billion) announced an alliance with Google to help organizations transform their business and operating models with secure cloud computing, machine learning (ML), enterprise mobility and advanced analytics technologies.

As part of the collaboration, KPMG is creating a portfolio of industry solutions built on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). KPMG member firms around the globe are currently engaging with clients on solutions for financial services, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail, among other industries. These solutions, including customer service solutions, contract management, cyber security, regulatory compliance and business and process performance, will benefit from GCP’s trusted security, advanced data analytics and ML.

Two KPMG solutions available now are KPMG Intelligent Interactions for creating a differentiated customer experience, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Assessment and Compliance solutions for managing customer data and privacy.

“Organizations are seeing advanced technologies and natural language experiences as a key to transforming their businesses,” says Miriam Hernandez-Kakol, KPMG’s Global Leader for Customer & Operations and Executive Sponsor for the Google Alliance. “KPMG is creating data-driven solutions that harness Google Cloud technology, including machine learning, to help our member firm clients advance business strategies and deliver unrivaled digital experiences.”

“Our alliance with KPMG helps customers across industries benefit from the advantages of Google Cloud, including our advanced security, data analytics and machine learning capabilities, to solve real business challenges,” says Tariq Shaukat, President, Partners and Industry Platforms, Google Cloud. “We’re working alongside KPMG to develop new solutions that help enable customers to actively participate in the ideation and creation of their own solutions.”

Manufacturers Slow to Adopt IoT, Report Finds

The internet of things (IoT) can help manufacturers improve customer service, field and plant maintenance work, inventory management, and more. However, the 2018 Manufacturing Report from professional services firm Naperville, Ill.-based Sikich (FY17 net revenue of $152.1 million) found that fewer than 10% of those surveyed currently use IoT technologies. Further, 30% said they have no clear understanding of the IoT.

“Manufacturers of all sizes can benefit from the internet of things, but too many lack the necessary understanding of the benefits and fail to embrace these transformative technologies,” says Jerry Murphy, PIC of Sikich’s manufacturing and distribution practice. “As a result, many manufacturers and distributors miss out on significant operational improvements and efficiency gains across the supply chain, which can put them at a competitive disadvantage.”

Additionally, the report revealed warning signs for manufacturers when it comes to protecting their data and intellectual property. Though more than three-fourths of respondents said they had not experienced a cybersecurity incident in the last 12-18 months, only 19% of respondents say they are “very ready” to address cybersecurity risk. Sixty-three percent of respondents believe they are only “somewhat ready.”

“Cybersecurity threats will only increase as technology becomes even more integrated into manufacturing operations,” says Brad Lutgen, a partner in Sikich’s security and compliance practice. “That’s especially true given the rapid adoption of IoT devices. Manufacturers must therefore have security programs in place to address the ever-changing threats. At a minimum, a company’s program should include conducting regular risk assessments, penetration testing and vulnerability assessments to gauge its current security posture. Manufacturers should also put in place vendor management programs to vet third-party technologies to make sure that vendors adequately test for security vulnerabilities.”

A focus on organic growth and R&D

The report found that, compared to 2017, fewer manufacturers said they are “more optimistic” about the U.S. economy (66% compared to 75% in 2017) and more said they are “less optimistic” (11% compared to 5% in 2017). Still, as they eye growth, companies continue to target existing domestic markets. Manufacturers ranked organic growth in an existing domestic market as their biggest opportunity, followed by new product or service development. As they seek to develop new products and services, 60% of respondents said they use research and development tax credits, up from 52% in 2017.

But, amid a push for business growth, many manufacturers still lack long-term succession plans. Only 25% of respondents have a written plan to exit the business.

For the 2018 Manufacturing Report, Sikich surveyed more than 200 respondents from companies across industrial sectors, including metal fabrication, industrial equipment, food and beverage, OEM equipment, chemicals and petroleum, automotive, plastics and wholesale/distribution.

Access the full report, including survey results and insights from Sikich technology, accounting, human resources, investment banking and supply chain experts, here.

The Bonadio Group Names Roman CIO

John Roman Jr.

John Roman Jr.

Pittsford, N.Y.-based The Bonadio Group (FY17 net revenue of $92.1 million) has appointed John Roman Jr. as its chief information officer (CIO).

Roman will oversee all aspects of the firm’s IT services including management, operations, security and strategic planning.

“We’re looking forward to adding John’s expertise to lead the team in information technology,” says Thomas Bonadio, CEO of Bonadio Group. “He has a strong history of applying results-oriented skills to multi-site organizations. This is an ideal time for John to join us as we grow in key markets and create a tech roadmap for the future.”

Roman’s experience includes more than a decade at Nixon Peabody’s Rochester office, as well as positions at Brite Computers, NetSetGo, Xerox, Wang Laboratories and Northern Telecom.

The Launch of a Canadian Accountant Referral Service and Directory – CPALocate.ca – A New Way to Connect with Potential Clients

CPALocate.ca announced the launch of a Canadian accountant referral service and directory. Consumers and businesses are often looking for specialized accountants, i.e. Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA), who can help either their families or businesses in a variety of situations based on their expertise. This directory allows consumers to locate or to request assistance from specialized CPAs in their city who meet certain skills or experience.

Having worked in small and mid-sized accounting firms, the founders know that this portal serves as a compliment not for only users in locating CPA’s but also for small and mid-sized accounting firms in advertising their services in a cost-effective manner. The founders of CPALocate.ca suggest that they have had to personally make numerous referrals to friends, family members and clients for different accountants, who specialize in unique niches. The need for the platform exists as many financial professionals have different skills or experience, which enables them to add value in different niches.

This directory allows CPA’s to advertise on a new medium, which is built for financial accounting professionals to connect with users in their local city or across Canada. This medium is created to connect the user and CPA, while easily leveraging the social media efforts of the accountant or the accounting firm to gain exposure on the CPALocate Platform. Furthermore, CPALocate’s proprietary artificial intelligence technology will assist the CPA’s to market their brand or their firm’s brand to potential clients or users.

CPALocate.ca, currently, is focusing its efforts on Canadian CPA’s but the team plans to expand the product offering to the U.S. by the end of the year.

For more information about CPALocate.ca, please visit the CPALocate.ca website at https://www.cpalocate.ca/

CPA.com and CaseWare Launch Solution for Preparation, Compilation and Review Engagements

CPA.com and CaseWare International Inc. announced the commercial launch of OnPoint PCR, a smart, cloud-based solution that transforms how CPA firms conduct preparation, compilation and review engagements.

By integrating content and methodology into a leading technology platform, OnPoint PCR offers a unique opportunity for firms to enhance engagement quality and be more productive. The solution – a collaboration of CPA.com, CaseWare and the AICPA – offers a guided, smart process for practitioners, from drafting a customized engagement letter and report (where applicable) to documenting specific procedures, all designed to streamline engagements.

Today, more than 19,000 U.S. firms perform preparation, compilation and review engagements as their highest level of service.

“With OnPoint PCR, we can really help firms drive efficiency and add client value,” says Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “The platform helps practitioners optimize engagements for each client, and these features will become even more powerful as OnPoint’s artificial intelligence capabilities evolve.”

OnPoint’s features include:

  • Guided engagements – The smart, interactive process eliminates unnecessary steps and facilitates compliance with standards
  • Integrated data – Simplifies data management and the import of client data, and reduces redundant data entry
  • Robust cloud platform – Real-time updates to data and built-in collaboration tools that eliminate the need for external programs, such as less-secure email

“A solution that includes intelligent checklists informed by AICPA technical guidance will help practitioners focus on adherence to standards and the firm’s quality control process,” says Susan Coffey, the AICPA’s executive vice president of public practice. “CPAs still must exercise professional judgment, and OnPoint supports proper documentation and promotes consistency and quality in engagements.”

Deloitte Blockchain Leader Leaves to Build Ethereum Supply Chain

Eric Piscini

Eric Piscini

Eric Piscini, who helped turn Deloitte’s global blockchain practice into a $50 million operation, left the company earlier this year, Forbes reported.

Piscini, who is credited with growing the firm’s blockchain team from three people in 2012 to 1,200, has joined Citizens Reserve, which is raising $150 million to move the world’s fragmented supply chain networks to two blockchains.

Citizens Reserve, a Los Gatos, Calif.-based startup, is creating a software bridge that connects the public Ethereum blockchain to a permissioned blockchain called Quorum, which was originally designed by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“It is this combination of the public blockchain infrastructure that powers the $66 billion Ethereum cryptocurrency, with a private solution designed to help JPMorgan and others comply with regulatory restrictions, that Piscini thinks is primed to make supply chain the next big industry to be disrupted by the technology,” Forbes reported.

“We are building the Ethereum of supply chain,” Piscini told Forbes. Piscini has helped grow the company from eight employees when he was brought on board to 18 employees today.

Citizens Reserve is a shared database designed to be used by every level of a supply chain including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Read more.

Crowe Appoints Chief Data Science Officer

Justin Bass

Justin Bass

As part of its continued investment in technology and data, Chicago-based Crowe LLP (FY17 net revenue of $809.5 million) recently named Justin Bass to be the firm’s first chief data science officer. In this role, Bass will lead the new data science business unit, which includes more than 20 data scientists.

While the chief data science officer role is common at technology firms, it’s not standard at accounting and consulting firms. “I’m excited for this opportunity and the commitment from Crowe to push forward into this area,” says Bass, who joined Crowe in 2015 as the firm’s only data scientist. “With a team of world-class data scientists, we’ve already set the groundwork and incorporated machine learning into a few solutions in a very short amount of time.”

Bass has extensive experience applying advanced analytic, automation and machine learning techniques to a variety of industries. In his new role, he will continue his focus on adding machine learning capabilities to various Crowe platforms, guiding business leaders on the capabilities of machine learning and structuring a machine learning team capable of working on all projects throughout the firm.

“This is part of the evolution of our innovation strategy, as we look for ways to further tap into the power of data,” says Derek Bang, chief strategy and innovation officer. “The ability to capture and harness the power of data helps our clients manage complex processes more effectively.”

Private Equity Firm Acquires Sageworks

The private equity firm Accel-KKR in Menlo Park, Calif., has agreed to buy Sageworks, a financial services software firm in Raleigh, N.C., that provides financial software and information to more than 1,200 U.S. banks and credit unions.

The software firm’s first product, Profit Cents, was based on a proprietary artificial intelligence system and originally designed to convert financial numbers into plain language for business owners in 1998.

Sageworks’ offerings have since expanded into lending, credit risk and portfolio risk solutions to financial institutions as well as financial analysis and valuation applications to accounting firms and private companies.

“We are pleased with the purchase by Accel-KKR, a leading firm that has vast experience in our specific industry,” says Brian Hamilton, founder of Sageworks. “The purchase will allow Sageworks to have an even bigger footprint in the financial industry and to help more people, which is what we are all about.”

Park Durrett, managing director at Accel-KKR, says, “Companies like Sageworks are essential partners to financial services institutions that are both under pressure to grow but also comply with a constantly changing regulatory environment.”

Rootworks Announces Launch of Member-Centric Online Platform Rootworks Grow

Rootworks, a member-based education organization for accounting firms, has launch an online platform for its 500 member firms called Grow.

Grow will be part of the Rootworks website and will allow firms to manage aspects of their membership and connect to the Rootworks team and other member firms.

The Grow Platform is divided into three sections: Learn, Plan and Community. Learn gives users events, online learning, one-on-one coaching and vendor information. Plan includes management tools to help firm leaders work on their firms, including the Rootworks GPA Tool. Community connects the Rootworks community members to interact and exchange ideas.

Grow also offers access to Rootworks’ marketing communications resources library and marketing education support.

“Our team worked very hard over the past few months to offer our members a radically improved online experience, and that’s exactly what we delivered this week,” says Rootworks CEO Darren Root. “We were laser focused on building a platform that fully supports firm leaders as they work on their businesses. Grow is a one-of-a-kind solution in that respect.”