Presenting Technology – An Experience


A few years ago, I get a voicemail “Hello, Liz. My name is Kal Barson. I read an article of yours in the Journal of Accountancy. It was brilliant. I want you to come talk to my group about technology. Call me back…” It was short, to the point, and his accent and cadence sounded like the star private eye of a film noir picture. I returned the phone call, only to be greeted by a voicemail recording that was hysterical. After a few missed calls, and a few crossed emails, Kal and I spoke. He told me about this group of CPAs that meets each year (postponed due to Covid) to discuss their firms, help each other improve, and challenge notions about our accounting industry. Then he got straight to the point “…listen, I think you will scare the crap out of my friends, and I cannot wait.” With that, I couldn’t not speak at his event.

I am sitting on the plane out of Atlanta after speaking at the CPA USA annual meeting. The room was small beaming with quality humans. For the conversations I was a part of, I could feel the generosity of spirit in sharing their firms’ most intimate details. I could feel each member’s desire to collaborate with the intention of bringing each other up. It was a refreshing experience.

My presentations – about technology – did scare the crap out of half the room. There were a few key takeaways that surprised the attendees, so I thought I would share them a bit further. It is easy to forget that I sit on the front wave of technology and what I know to be true, is not common knowledge in accounting. Far from it.

Top 10 Surprises:

  1. There are tools that read line items on bank statements for clean-up. As a tax firm, you likely have clients that need financials created, recreated, or ready for audit. Most firms use humans to code directly off of bank statements. My favorite tool for this is AutoEntry. You only pay for the lines coded and it works amazingly fast.
  2. Machine learning algorithms are employed all over newer accounting technology. Auto Entry, for example, learns from prior coding to be able to predict the line item coding for you. Auto Entry is claiming a minimum of 85% accuracy using their predictions from the machine learning robot. That is up from 30% when they first built it. Time and data quantity and quality really do make a difference.
  3. Robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming completely affordable for firms. RPA was once considered a product only for large, rich companies. However, there are tools coming to the small firm level that are both affordable and easily configurable.
  4. Predictive analytics are being used in marketing more than accounting. Marketers are great at using data to predict buying behaviors. As predictive analytics platforms become more accessible, we will see their use in financial planning and analysis (FP&A) much more often.
  5. JP Morgan is using a blockchain platform for transactions – Onyx.
  6. JP Morgan has issued their own cryptocurrency – JPM Coin.
  7. El Salvador made Bitcoin their official national currency (read more in the WSJ). I believe there will be more countries in the future who either create or adopt a cryptocurrency as their national currency.
  8. There are data tools in existence that can simultaneously analyze every transaction in a data set and identify likely fraud. These tools using machine learning and historical data to train models to identify statistically anomalous transactions. Check out AyasdiAI.
  9. The security on data in the cloud is actually more secure than in a local office server. Data in the cloud has distributed storage and redundant backups, making it harder to steal and harder to erase.
  10. A Microsoft 365 subscription includes basic access to Microsoft Power BI.

And, remember, if anyone asks me to come “scare the crap out of my friends”, I will show up with the nerdiest excitement to chat next level technology that is disrupting reality as we know it.

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Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is the Founder of High Rock Accounting, Rebel Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.