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From traditional to tech-savvy – accounting firms plan increased technology investment over next two years according to Caseware study

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Audit firms struggling to build teams with diverse skill sets that can deliver the audit of the future

TORONTO, Feb. 7, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Investing in technology is a key priority for accounting firms as they move into 2024, while mitigating the ongoing talent shortage and keeping pace with new laws continue to cause challenges for many within the profession. This is according to findings from the 2024 State of Accounting Firms Trends Report released by Caseware International, a global leader in cloud-enabled audit, financial reporting and data analytics solutions.

Meanwhile, Caseware’s 2024 State of Internal Audit Trends Report highlights the need for technology expertise amid ongoing issues around attracting and retaining top talent.

Caseware explores worldwide perspectives within the accounting and audit professions annually. Both reports are based on extensive surveys of practitioners from around the world that were conducted in late 2023.

State of Accounting Firms Findings

Technology Adoption

Firms are clearly committed to investing in technology, with 77% of survey respondents stating their financial outlay will increase either significantly or slightly over the next two years. This represents an increase of 8% when compared to the 2023 survey findings. Innovative technologies are entering the accounting landscape quickly, with Generative AI being a notable example. Despite only becoming widely available in the year that our survey was conducted, more than 10% of respondents identified it as a top-three area of intended software investment for 2024. Engagement software (audit, review and compilation, tax etc.) was selected as a top-three area of investment for the coming year by 21% of respondents.

Talent Crunch

Hiring and retaining talent remains a key issue for accounting firms. Overall, 88% of respondents said hiring and retaining talent was challenging to some degree, with 47% describing it as somewhat challenging and 41% saying it was extremely challenging. However, firms are starting to take action, with 32% offering training programs to upskill existing employees, 27% offering newly-created roles and capabilities into their firms and 24% opting to employ a third-party talent sourcing service.

David Osborne, Chief Executive Officer of Caseware International remarked, “Technology is a magnet for those considering joining the profession. The firms that fail to match the expectations of the accounting and audit professionals of tomorrow will see their talented, dynamic employees drift to competitors who offer more tech-savvy, progressive environments.”

Laws and Regulations

Dealing with new laws and regulations was identified as the most frequently cited challenge among survey respondents, with 16% confirming this as their top issue. This highlights the pressures on firms to keep up with today’s dynamic and fast-paced regulatory climate. As global economic and regulatory environments become more complex, clients are increasingly turning to their accountants for advice and guidance. As a result, the demand for client advisory services is on the rise – 76% of survey respondents indicated that their firm has seen either significant (23%) or modest (53%) growth in this area.

State of Internal Audit Findings

Talent Crunch

Finding and retaining skilled auditors is slightly easier than in the previous year but remains difficult. When asked how challenging it was to hire and retain the right talent for their firms, almost 90% of survey respondents stated that it was either extremely or somewhat challenging.

With technology expertise in particularly high demand for internal audit departments, it’s clear that audit firms are looking to build teams equipped to deliver the audit of the future. When exploring the skill sets departments sought, data science elicited 18% of responses, while IT audit and cybersecurity garnered 15% and 12%, respectively. Artificial intelligence secured 9% of responses, while fraud examination was the most sought non-technical skill (10%) with ESG polling 8%.

Data Analytics

Many firms are looking to data analytics to support and enhance their auditing activities. When asked about the use of data analytics in their audits, 21% said they are now using analytics for all audits, while an additional 57% indicated they are selectively using data analytics for some.

Ian Kirton, an internal audit industry expert commented, “It’s not a surprise to see that the use of data analytics is increasing. It’s how auditors are meeting the challenge of doing more with less. Analytics helps them spot risk, re-evaluate controls and perform continuous auditing.”

Do More with Less

A significant internal pressure for audit teams is the need to do more with less time and resources – 30% of respondents identified this as their top selection. Auditors face increased reporting requirements, such as ESG, DEI and culture, often without a corresponding budget increase, so teams need to be as efficient as possible when completing their audits.

Trends to watch:

2024 State of Accounting Firms Trends Report

  • Although 73% of respondents indicated they are either currently implementing or are planning to implement DEI initiatives in their firm, an alarming 27% said they are not and have no plans to do so.
  • Firms continue to modernize their practices, with 76% responding that they use either cloud-only tools or a mix of desktop and cloud to help manage their practice. This is an increase of 17% compared to the 2023 findings.
  • 17% of respondents are using offshoring to mitigate the accounting profession’s talent shortage.

2024 State of Internal Audit Trends Report

  • Just 10% of respondents said hiring and retaining the right talent for their firm is not challenging at all.
  • According to 76% of respondents, over the past year, the number of employees in their internal audit department has either increased or stayed the same.
  • In the past year, 45% have seen growth in ESG-related audit work.
About Caseware International

Caseware is the leading global provider of desktop and cloud-enabled solutions for audit, assurance, financial reporting and data analytics for accounting firms, corporations, and government regulators.  Caseware’s innovative tools and platforms help more than half a million customers in 130 countries work smarter, dig deeper and see further as they transform insights into impact. For more information, visit www.caseware.com.

Notes to editors

Survey methodology

Caseware conducted the 2024 State of Accounting Firms Survey from the second week of September to the second week of November 2023. It was offered in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Dutch and German, and garnered 2,054 validated survey completions. Responses were received from 49 countries, with the largest participation rates coming from the United States, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The most frequently chosen title among respondents was Partner/Managing Partner, at just over one-third (34.6%).

Caseware conducted the 2024 State of Internal Audit Survey from the second week of September to the second week of November 2023. It was distributed in five languages – English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish – with 1,068 respondents completing the survey.

The most common job title for survey participants was “Internal Auditor” at 21%, followed by “Internal Audit Manager” at 16% and “Head of Internal Audit” at 14%.

In the event of media enquiries, please contact: Elise Sallis, Head of Global Communications, [email protected], +44 (0)7515 538014; Jill Quinn, Director Corporate Communications, [email protected], 1-416-737-0703

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Validation Cloud Secures $5.8 Million in Inaugural Funding to Propel Web3 Infrastructure

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ZUG, Switzerland, Feb. 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — In a significant stride towards revolutionizing Web3 infrastructure, Validation Cloud has proudly announced the successful closure of its first external investment round, amassing $5.8 million. Spearheaded by San Francisco-based Cadenza Ventures, this funding round exceeded expectations with contributions from an impressive roster of international investors, including Blockchain Founders Fund, Bloccelerate, Blockwall, Side Door Ventures, Metamatic, GS Futures, and AP Capital.

Alex Nwaka, Co-Founder of Validation Cloud, expressed enthusiasm about the funding, “This investment marks a pivotal moment for Validation Cloud as we aim to address the urgent demand for scalable and compliant Web3 infrastructure. We’re honored to collaborate with our investors who are instrumental in propelling the global adoption of our platform among cutting-edge networks, developers, and asset managers.”

Validation Cloud is at the forefront of Web3 technology, having developed an innovative system architecture that paves the way for significant advancements in the sector. Known as the “Cloudflare of Web3,” the company offers a robust, scalable, and intelligent platform providing Staking, Node API, and Data services, drawing inspiration from Cloudflare’s transformative impact on Web2 infrastructure.

Founded by veterans in the Proof-of-Stake domain, Validation Cloud boasts a team of highly experienced professionals from renowned organizations such as Uber, Workday, Deloitte, Citadel, Morgan Stanley, Binance, Crypto.com, Figure, R3, and more, emphasizing a talent-first approach with a worldwide workforce.

Kumar Dandapani, Managing Partner at Cadenza Ventures, highlighted the strategic vision behind their investment, “At Cadenza, we do not invest in just any company; we invest in the future of transformative technologies. Validation Cloud’s pioneering role in Proof-of-Stake and their relentless pursuit of next-generation Web3 infrastructure have set them apart as leaders in the Web3 space.”

Aly Madhavji, Managing Partner at Blockchain Founders Fund, shared his thoughts on the investment, “We believe in the transformative power of Web3 and its ability to redefine how businesses operate. Investing in Validation Cloud aligns perfectly with our vision of supporting innovative platforms that are ready to lead the next wave of digital transformation.”

Validation Cloud has earned a reputation for its close partnerships with networks from their nascent stages, supporting a wide array of ecosystems from established ones like Chainlink, Hedera, and Stellar to emerging networks such as Aptos, Eigenlayer, and Berachain. Their platform lays the groundwork for the enterprise adoption of networks, positioning Validation Cloud as a key player in the Web3 infrastructure landscape.

For further details on Validation Cloud and its offerings, please visit www.validationcloud.io.

Please contact: Kelly Clark, Director of Communications | [email protected] 

Funding Announcement for Validation Cloud by Alex Nwaka

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Klarna says its AI assistant does the work of 700 people after it laid off 700 people

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The Swedish fintech, which was criticized for its handling of a dramatic staff reduction in 2022, is touting new efficiencies powered by OpenAI.

Klarna is bullish on bots.

One month after taking its OpenAI-powered virtual assistant global, the Swedish buy-now, pay-later company has released new data touting its ability to handle customer communications, make shoppers happier, and even drive better financial results.

The app-based AI chatbot already handles two-thirds of all customer service chats, the company said Tuesday—some 2.3 million conversations so far—with the virtual assistant earning customer satisfaction ratings at the same level as human agents. Klarna, which is expected to go public this year and will need all the hype it can get at a time when investors have been generally frosty toward IPOs, estimates that the chatbot could help improve its profits by $40 million in 2024.

Announcing a partnership with OpenAI early last year, Klarna said it was one of the first companies to integrate the firm’s groundbreaking ChatGPT technology into a plug-in for shopping. The natural-language interface initially helped customers choose items and make other shopping-related decisions based on personalized queries, a feature Klarna described as “smooth shopping.”

The company has continued to build out its AI offerings since then. Its app-based assistants are now available to customers worldwide and handle a variety of tasks including refunds, cancellations, and even disputes.

Klarna boasted in its announcement on Tuesday that the AI assistant “is doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents.”

That statement may raise eyebrows for anyone who remembers the middle of 2022, when the company laid off roughly the same number of employees, then about 10% of its staff. At the time, CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski cited economic uncertainty, inflation, and the likelihood of a recession as reasons for the cuts. He was criticized for his handling of the staff reduction after he shared a public spreadsheet on LinkedIn that contained the names of many of the laid-off workers.

Fast Company asked Klarna how the company arrived at its calculation for its AI assistant’s human-equivalent productivity. The company said the number of equivalent jobs the AI could perform wasn’t related to the layoffs. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company’s customer service is supported by four to five large third-parties that collectively have over 650,000 employees, and that it offers customers the option to speak with human agents if that’s what they prefer.

“This is in no way connected to the workforce reductions in May 2022, and making that conclusion would be incorrect,” the statement read. “We chose to share the figure of 700 to indicate the more long-term consequences of AI technology, where we believe it is important to be transparent in order to create an understanding in society. We think [it’s] important to proactively address these issues and encourage a thoughtful discussion around how society can meet and navigate this transformation.”

Companies have used chatbots for years to handle low-level customer queries and other interactions, although these tools are expected to become more versatile in the wake of advancements in artificial intellegence.

Source: Fast Company

The post Klarna says its AI assistant does the work of 700 people after it laid off 700 people appeared first on HIPTHER Alerts.

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KAPSARC Launches Saudi Arabia’s First School of Public Policy

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  • Inspired by His Royal Highness, the Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud’s passion for education, human capital development and innovation, the KAPSARC School of Public Policy (KSPP) was founded as the first institution in Saudi Arabia dedicated to graduate studies and executive education in public policy.
  • Through its academic offerings, KSPP empowers individuals to tackle pressing public policy challenges and embrace the promising opportunities shaping the future.
  • KSPP’s facilities will run on 100% renewable energy, setting a precedent as one of the first net-zero facilities in the Saudi educational sector.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) has been granted an establishment license for its School of Public Policy (KSPP) after the recent approval by the Council of Ministers, and which was announced during the Human Capability Initiative (HCI) on February 28, 2024, conducted under the patronage of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Human Capability Development Program Committee, one of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Realization Programs.

Aiming to set new standards in policy studies, the school offers a two-year master’s degree and executive education programs designed to enable and empower future policy leaders and professionals within Saudi Arabia and globally to address the most pressing domestic and international public policy challenges in the public, non-profit and private sectors.

This significant achievement was announced by His Royal Highness, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, the Minister of Energy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of KAPSARC: “The vision for KAPSARC School of Public Policy is to develop the knowledge and skills that the new generation needs to shape public policy both locally and globally. Our mission is to empower and equip future policy leaders and professionals within Saudi Arabia and internationally to make informed socio-economic decisions.”

In a statement on the sidelines of the school’s launch, Fahad Alajlan, President of KAPSARC, stressed the Center’s mission to impact public policy on national, regional, and global levels. “Our new School of Public Policy will equip future leaders with the right skills to create data-driven and evidence-based public policy in line with Vision 2030 goals.”

Dr. Ghadah Alarifi, Founding Dean of KSPP, stated that, “Public policy serves as the foundation of societal progress. At KSPP, we aim to be a catalyst for collaboration, building a robust ecosystem that bridges academia, industry, and government in the public policy arena.”

By leveraging KAPSARC’s network, KSPP provides a platform for global engagement and career growth opportunities, offering practical application and flexible courses tailored to empower policymakers in different tracks including energy policy.

The school is committed to achieving high sustainability standards in the Saudi educational sector, including the goal of running on 100% renewable energy. This dedication ensures that KSPP meets its annual energy needs through on-site renewable resources, eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

For more information about KSPP, visit https://www.kapsarc.org/about-the-school/.

Follow KSPP on social media:

  • X: @KAPSARC_SPP
  • LinkedIn: @ KAPSARC School of Public Policy

About KAPSARC:

KAPSARC is a leading think tank dedicated to advancing knowledge on energy, environment, and regional economic issues. Accredited observer of UNFCCC, KAPSARC actively contributes to global climate action. The mission of KAPSARC is to advance Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and inform global policies through evidence-based advice and applied research. For more information about the center please visit: https://www.kapsarc.org/

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