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Intuit CEO Says Accountants Must Get On Board With AI

Brad Smith, CEO of enterprise software firm Intuit, is warning accountants that they must embrace artificial intelligence (AI) in their professions or risk falling behind.

According to news from Yahoo Finance, Smith spoke at the QuickBooks Connect conference to discuss the potential for AI to disrupt the accounting field. Traditional accountants are going to struggle if they don’t adopt AI, he warned.

“Anyone who wants to stay in the business of, ‘Send me your shoebox, and I’ll type it in, and I’ll charge you by the hour,’ I think those will be the ones who will be struggling in five years,” the CEO told the conference.

The remarks were made as QuickBooks announced the launch of QuickBooks Assistant, a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to help self-employed and small business (SMB) owners manage their finances via voice or typed commands. The tool so far can respond to 50 questions, including how much an entrepreneur will owe in taxes and which sales are most profitable for the business.

The chatbot launch follows similar technologies introduced by other small business accounting players. Earlier this year, Sage introduced its bot Pegg in Canada, which can track small business expenses or access account information, among other capabilities.

Reports noted that Smith thinks such AI-powered accounting technology will eventually be able to handle more commands and questions and will be used in more scenarios. The Intuit CEO said this offers the potential for AI to change the nature of small business accounting — not replace the profession outright.

“You know, if a small business works with an accountant, their odds of success go up 89 percent,” said Smith. “So, if [you] get the accountants to step away from keying data in — is the way they define it themselves — and instead let the machine do that, and get the accountant into the advisory role of, ‘Hey, based on what I see, here’s what I think you ought to do,’ then I think you have a category that’s reimagined itself and hasn’t been displaced.”

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