Interview

26 November 2018

Digitalisation: let empathy and trust rule

Imagine offering the same services as you do today, but at a much, much faster speed and hugely lower cost. This is what technology enables according to Kasper W. Rost, CEO and founder of Calcabis, a Copenhagen-based software firm that offers customised artificial intelligence solutions.

He sees a fundamental shift happening, perhaps a decade from now, and a clear phase-in of new technologies until then: “I think people will still be helped by computers in the next 5, 8, maybe 10 years, and then there will be a paradigm shift where computers take all of the decisions based on input from human beings.”

Kasper explains how the rule-based nature of the accountancy, legal and financial professions mean they are ideally suited to the opportunities that digitalisation offers: “These professions are based on rules and data. These two things are clearly something you can put into a computer that can do it better than a human being. AI systems can analyse all the data in the world and they can take all precautions, they can know all the legislation and regulations.”

Empathy and trust rule!

“Human skills – empathy, being able to communicate with people – these will be the most essential skills for accountants and auditors in the coming years”, Kasper strongly underlines. He notes that, if a computer gives an output to an accountant, who then acts as the “personal interface”, there will be a real onus on them to communicate the outputs effectively and empathically with their clients.

This need for empathy is further compounded by what Kasper describes as current a trust issue in machine-based decision-making amongst clients: “I think that people getting an output from a computer, they don’t trust it yet. If these outputs are well-delivered by a skilled accountant, I believe it will be judged more reliable.”

Tomorrow’s opportunity, coming soon

So when will these faster, cheaper services be with us? Well, perhaps quicker than you might think. “We’re currently in close dialogue with two of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who really want us to implement this feature and gain a competitive advantage”, notes Kasper.

He identifies two specific areas of opportunity his company is focussing on.

Firstly, data-driven AI: “this is the ‘hot topic’ right now – machine learning, deep learning. It means taking all the data that they have – and they have a lot – and seeing tendencies, trends, and perhaps being able to predict something before it happens.”

“Opportunity number two is to train the computer in legislation: tax legislation and legal requirements across industries. This is a key supporting tool”, according to Kasper.

He offers a positive final message and a clear challenge to the profession: “Embrace the technology… the opportunity is there, and clear. Otherwise, you really risk losing big.”

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