With all the hype surrounding ChatGPT and its potential impact on the future of various industries, just how useful are AI chatbots when it comes to finance and accounting? And what are the potential caveats? Profectus CEO, Chris Hutchins, provides his thoughts alongside other industry professionals.
AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and Japser have the potential to significantly speed up tasks like research, writing and analysis, according to Theory and Motion chief technology officer Inbal Rodnay Steinberg.
Ms Rodnay said these AI tools take away some of the tasks that finance professionals like accountants currently do, enabling them to focus on more sophisticated types of work.
The key concepts behind Chat GPT and similar models, she said, is that they are generative, which represents a significant shift from the traditional search engine.
“We’re used to working with things like Google that does the search for us and brings us the results with different pages but you need to read them to find what you’re looking for,” she said, speaking at Accountex in Sydney last week.
“However, the GPT generative language models will actually go and read those pages for you and generate an answer to your question.”
Using AI chatbots to speed up research
Given the ability for AI models such as Chat GPT to absorb huge amounts of information and predict an answer, these tools can help professionals such as accountants streamline the process of finding answers for complex queries, according to Profectus chief executive Chris Hutchins.
Mr Hutchins said natural language processing is already starting to be used in this way in the law profession.
“In those really complex industries such as accounting where there’s all these different accounting standards depending on where you’re operating, [these tools] can definitely be used to help speed up the process of finding an answer for a question involving a particular situation against standards,” Mr Hutchins told Accounting Times.
“There’s a big question around what Google will do next given the largest area for natural learning applications is really speeding up the research process and providing meaningful predictions on what might be a true answer.”
Ms Rodnay also agreed that AI chatbots will help automate some of the research and analysis work. However, she also stressed the importance of recognising that these tools are not the same as an accountant and or a calculator.
“It’s not like Xero that’s got the algorithms in there to give us the right figures on profit and loss. It’s more like a graduate or a really fast assistant that’s trying really hard to find the best answer to our questions based on the information it has access to so it may be right of it may not,” she explained.
By learning to drive the technology properly, said Ms Rodnay, users can optimise the results they get from AI chatbots.
“I can ask clarifying questions and I can send it to find more details or compare things until we get it right, just like you would with a graduate or a really fast assistant that is always eager to help and is never too tired to go and try again,” she said.
With ChatGPT already integrated into the Microsoft Power Automate platform, Ms Rodnay said there are also opportunities that firms can explore by connecting it with their data sources.
“So we can connect it to standard operating procedures or our policies, or to client files and start asking questions. For example, I could ask it what is the length of parental leave in my company and it will go and find some information. I can then ask it to give me some references to that and it will say that it found it in a particular document,” she explained.
“I can ask it questions about my clients if I give it access to my client information. There is huge power,” she said.
Smithink founding director David Smith said blogging can be a great starting position for those wanting to understand how this technology works.
“I know of a number of firms who are throwing a few dot points to the chat bot and saying ‘write me a blog about that’,” said Mr Smith. “Some of them have been quite impressive in terms of what the chatbot has done but I still wouldn’t be confident in straight out publishing it without making some tweaks.”
Despite this, these tools can be very useful as a starting point for creating an article.
“Firms often struggle to get the time to write blogs so this could help accountants get their activity a bit higher in that area,” he noted.
Ms Rodnay said accountants can look at experimenting with platforms like Jasper and other similar tools which allow users to collaborate with the platform to write content.
“I can provide some information and context for Jasper and say that I’m an accountant in Australia and that my client asked for advice around whether she should start her painting business as a company or sole trader and that I would like to explain the options,” she explained.
“So I can enter that and then write a command for Jasper in the text, asking him to go and draft an email. Jasper will read that and start drafting an email. I can look at that and start editing within the text and he will stop to give me time to edit and give more commands before I ask him to continue. So it’s really about collaboration.”
While it’s not an expert accountant that’s helping to write the content, it is an expert writer, she stated.
“It’s a prolific writer and I can ask it to use more fun language or more structured language. I can also specify whether I want bullet points or free test, ask it to give examples and specify how many paragraphs. I can also ask it to summarise information for me.”
“So it’s not the same as an expert but it’s like having a very productive assistant that we can collaborate with.”
Another area where AI chatbots can be useful is with lead generation, said Mr Smith.
“This could be something you have on your website where people can ask questions about the firm and its services and those sorts of things,” he said
“I think there’s an opportunity around using them as a way that’s not providing advice but really just providing information about the firm on a potential inquiry. This is somewhere where this technology could be deployed where firms wouldn’t be too concerned about the potential risk.”
Mr Hutchins agreed that chatbots can be used to take away some of those questions that are more repeatable and predictable in terms of the answer.
“It could be a model where clients can have their questions answered with a high degree of confidence just be speaking with a chatbot,” he said.
But, he noted, a potential downside is that it could potentially be an impersonal experience for the client.
Published via the Accounting Times: https://www.accountingtimes.com.au/technology/what-chat-gpt-can-do-for-accountants