Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Smaller Firms Consider the Rewards and Risks of Using AI

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jun 6, 2023

Smaller accounting firms are intrigued about the possibilities that artificial intelligence (AI) may hold for their business, but they are proceeding cautiously when employing it, Accounting Today reported.

Some firms have begun to use the technology to generate marketing materials.

"One of the main things we've done, almost immediately, is use it as a junior writer for blog posts,” said Adolfo Marquez, leader of Fresno-based MBS Accountancy. “A lot of firms that we've seen don't have a marketing person on hand; they usually use an agency, so one of the benefits we've had is obviously marketing. What we've done is feed it content we previously wrote and train it from there," but being sure that the content is fact-checked before being published. 

"This is one area where we've tested it and implemented something,” said Akshay Shrimanker, founder and CEO of New York-based Shay CPA, which specializes in tech startups. “We're creating some content, and we use a copywriter who does our marketing and blog posts, and we've been able to use some of the content she created, and her voice, to create something new. We've been testing that out to see how it will work," he said. He added that ChatGPT needs editing and that his copywriter understands the business and its mission.

Shrimanker also told Accounting Today that ChatGPT is a good summarizer of long documents.

Chris Ferretti, operations manager of Maryland-based Club Capital, said his firm also uses AI for research. In addition, the firm incorporates it in client communications, particularly when someone has technical questions.

"We've been using it to automate the communications that we receive from them. By us asking the question through ChatGPT that our clients are asking, we're able to provide a faster response,” he said. “I understand ChatGPT is not 100 percent accurate, so of course our actual professionals check to see if something is off."

Professionals are also aware of the potential risks using the technology, particularly in the case of incorporating it into workflows. "I think not enough information has been put out there or communicated yet to be able to fully implement it into our workflows, so we're just taking our time with it and experimenting with it," said Shrimanker.

The biggest risk is to client confidentiality, as everything entered into ChatGPT goes into the servers of OpenAI, the company that created the chatbot. 

"Absolutely [it] could be considered a breach of the ethics rules if the CPA were to upload client information to a server that was not secure,” said Cathy Allen, an accounting ethics expert and founder of training company Audit Conduct. “Wherever the CPA stores client confidential data, they would need to ensure, through their own due diligence, that the information was protected and could not be accessed by other parties." 

Each firm leader interviewed said that some sort of control system that accounted for these risks had been implemented. Marquez said that everyone understands that they are never to enter client information into the AI system. Shrimanker said that Chat GPT access is restricted to himself, the firm's operations manager and another marketing person on their team, and that client issues discussed on ChatGPT do not include client-specific information.

Click here to see more of the latest news from the NYSSCPA.