Should you trust ChatGPT at your firm?

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Generative AI can be a useful tool for finance professionals, but any output must be analysed carefully.

Barely six months since its launch, ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the latest artificial intelligence chatbot platform, has caused both excitement and controversy across the consumer and business world. Its functionality, which allows users to ask questions and input data through a simulated chat, can perform a multitude of complex tasks such as creating articles or essays, summarising text, writing or debugging code, analysing data and even composing music.

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In theory, ChatGPT can help accountants and finance professionals to:

  • write business pitches
  • process invoices
  • automate tasks
  • interpret data and/or summarise complex information
  • give tax advice
  • create financial reports
  • identify market trends.

Inevitably, the platform has serious pitfalls and there are many ethical issues as well as accuracy concerns. Students have already submitted essays ‘written’ by the chatbot, while the platform often provides inaccurate information due to obsolete or outdated data, or because it has misinterpreted the context or points of law. In some cases, it simply makes things up.

Since ChatGPT is already disrupting the business world, utilisation of this platform will only become more widespread, so it’s vital accountants and their clients are aware of its limitations if they are to effectively benefit from ChatGPT’s powerful technology. We asked accountants for their views.

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Trust it like an intern 

James Poyser, CEO, inniAccounts and Provestor

We’ve always used machine learning at inniAccounts and we’re currently piloting ChatGPT. It’s clear it has excellent potential for productivity improvements. We’ve used it for first drafts of emails, summarising phone calls, divergent thinking (brainstorming) and helping with writing performance objectives.

It’s a very versatile tool and we’re confident, even at this stage, that tools like this will soon become embedded in our everyday activities.

We’re positioning it internally as great for first drafts – we see it like an intern with endless energy, but occasionally overconfident and with the potential to make errors.

As such, we expect our team members who use it to be accountable for its output. If you’re going to be accountable, you need to know if it’s right or wrong.

For students specifically, I think it’s a technology that cannot be ignored. Use it. Understand it. But understand its limitations. So remember, if you’re using it to take a shortcut (ie letting it write assignments) then you will become unstuck in the future if you cannot confidently take responsibility for your AI assistant’s output.

If I were studying today, I’d think of ChatGPT as an infinitely patient personal tutor, with exceptional recall. Use it to help you learn – ask it questions, explore topics together, ask it to test you, if you don’t understand, tell it what you don’t understand and it will help you. Ask it to explain exam questions to you, get it to teach you exam technique, get some tips on overcoming procrastination.

Verdict: ChatGPT should be viewed like an intern – a source of help with boundless energy that’s occasionally overconfident and with the potential for making errors.

Trust it for accountancy support

Martin Horton, Director, Rivington Accounts

ChatGPT can be used to gain better insights into clients and their businesses. If you’re due to have a meeting with a new client and you’re not too familiar with who they are or what they do, ChatGPT can summarise the business and prompt some interesting questions.

ChatGPT can also help with business plans and budgets as well as creating content.

There does need to be some degree of common sense, caution and due diligence applied here, however; accountants need to use their own judgement and not take ChatGPT at face value.

ChatGPT also cannot provide a nuanced opinion. There are lots of grey areas in accounting and some situations where context is everything. One particular transaction may need to be treated in one particular way, but a similar transaction may require different treatment. For these situations you need the benefit of experience and human cognition.

I’d also caution anyone using ChatGPT for tax advice or changes – legislation changes so quickly, ChatGPT can’t and shouldn’t be relied on to interpret it.

Ultimately, you cannot know if what ChatGPT tells you is correct – you always need a second opinion and to have some working knowledge of the issue you’re using ChatGPT for. As accountants, we have a responsibility to get information right.

Verdict: ChatGPT can provide accountancy support but due diligence and common sense are still needed. Accountants are responsible for ensuring they are correct.

Not for subjectivity or interpretation

Radeep Mathew, Partner, Innovation and R&D Tax, BDO

Recent Generative AI models (like ChatGPT) have created an explosion in innovation and investment.

There are numerous applications for generative AI frameworks in the accounting industry including:

  • handling of repetitive accounting tasks such as inputting data into excel
  • generation of tax due diligence and advisory reports
  • preparation of financial statements and reports
  • lead generation and enhanced customer centricity.

However, it’s important to be aware that the underlying source data is not verifiable and complete. Many ChatGPT statements are not factually correct or have inherent bias, and reference links are often not relevant or don’t work.

Lack of transparency, accountability and data privacy are all concerns. Current models and applications don’t have the appropriate controls and protections for compliance. Caution is advised, particularly around subjectivity or interpretation, where human validation or intervention is needed. Regulated accountancy firms require sign-off by approved license holders – not robots.

Verdict: ChatGPT has huge potential but it should never be used in tasks where subjectivity or interpretation is needed, and its output should be fact-checked.

If you’re going to use ChatGPT, get it right

Learn how to write specific prompts for ChatGPT to get the best results.

Find out more

Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.

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