In November 2018, Botkeeper raised $18 million from Greycroft and Gradient Ventures to use AI and machine learning to automate bookkeeping. Following the VC round, founder and CEO Enrico Palmerino told Accounting Today in December 2018 that Botkeeper is “a full bookkeeper replacement; it’s a robo-bookkeeper.”
Yet according to an email forwarded by a Botkeeper accountant partner (who uses the service on behalf of clients), Botkeeper may not be quite as robotic as it claims. Listen in to the latest episode for all the details.
Follow up on QuickBooks Live
Xero’s commitment to bookkeepers — Xero.com — Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas, says “At Xero, our choice is clear: technology can only succeed when it improves human relationships. We believe people innovate – technology doesn't.”
Intuit is exploring bookkeeping, and it’s not a bad thing — Accounting Today — Cathy Iconis says, “I think there is another view that people are ignoring - QuickBooks will actually increase the market for bookkeepers. Yes, we will have to compete and differentiate ourselves from QuickBooks, but I wouldn’t mind a few more million small businesses to fight over.”
How you respond to Intuit's "live bookkeeping" shows where your firm is going — LinkedIn — Karen Reyburn says “You're now being pushed to be really, really clear about how you're different… This will push you to focus on the clients, and what they actually need.”
My Thoughts On Intuit's Live Bookkeeping Offer — Mark Wickersham — Mark Wickerham says, “My view on Intuit’s new test is that it hasn’t changed anything for those in the profession who are forward-thinking and willing to change. Machine learning and artificial intelligence is getting better. We already know that. We knew we needed to change our services because of the technological advances in our profession. Intuit’s experiment has just given us more immediacy to alter our service.”
Lorilyn A Crum on Twitter — Lorilyn Crum says, “The term bookkeeper needs to go away... instead rebrand as an accounting technician or accounting operations."
Bookkeepers: Is the Death Knell upon us in 2019? — Melanie Power — Mel Power says, ““With the introduction of cloud accounting, and further technology advancements around artificial intelligence and machine learning within the accounting vendor and ecosystem... the labour intensive process is reduced to almost zero. The truth of the matter is, there is NO value for highly skilled bookkeepers in doing data entry work when we have all of the tools available to do the job FOR us.”
IRS internal controls around refunds are a joke
Tampa man reported income of $18,497; IRS sent him a refund check for $980,000 — CNBC — By now, you may know that withholding a lot of income for taxes will result in an eventual refund. However, a Florida man pushed the envelope and claimed that he paid the taxman $1 million in taxes on less than $20,000 in wages.
That’s one expensive accounting textbook
Rare medieval accountancy book expected to sell for $1.5m — Financial Times — Christie’s will auction Luca Pacioli’s Summa de Arithmetica, a compendium of everything known at the time about mathematics, but also a practical, how-to guide to succeeding in business that is the first written record of the system of double entry accounting.
Blockchain to speed up international transfers at JP Morgan
JP Morgan is rolling out the first US bank-backed cryptocurrency to transform payments business — CNBC — Engineers at the lender have created the "JPM Coin," a digital token that will be used to instantly settle transactions in its wholesale payments business.
Bill.com + AMEX — How it works
Finally, thanks to Stephen Brown for pointing us in the right direction when it comes to the new American Express Vendor Pay by Bill.com. This is a service on the American Express website available to American Express Business and Corporate Card® Members only. Customers will be able to pay vendors via virtual cards for free. ACH and check services also will be available for a per transaction fee.
Down Under news
Reckon Shifts Strategy In MYOB, Xero Rivalry — PYMNTS — Reckon has reportedly decided to pull out of the market of accounting software marketed directly to small businesses. Instead, the company is working with the Institute of Public Accountants to white label its solution.
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Blake Oliver: Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver-.
David Leary: And I'm David Leary.
Blake Oliver: David, we shoulda celebrated last time, because it was episode 50. It's our ... What anniversary is that? Gold? I think it's gold.
David Leary: I shoulda sent you a flower, or something, at least for Valentine's Day.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it's been 50 episodes for us, together. I just want to say, David, it's been a pleasure.
David Leary: Oh, thank you. Hopefully, it's a pleasure for everybody listening. I mean, we do it for them. Yes, it's fun that you ... I get in the closet; I talk to Blake every week, but it's really for everybody else that's downloading, and listening, and tuning in.
Blake Oliver: It's been really fun these last two or three weeks, especially, with all the news about QuickBooks Live. We're actually not gonna kick off with that this week. There is even potentially bigger news; really interesting news about Botkeeper. Botkeeper got a ton of press coverage back in late 2018, because they raised $18 million from Greycroft, and Gradient Ventures. It's a Google-backed private-equity firm.
Blake Oliver: They were getting tons of news, sort of like QuickBooks Live has been getting, because they were going out there, saying, "We are going to replace bookkeeping. We have figured out how to automate bookkeeping using artificial intelligence, and AI, and machine learning. You can become our partner, as an accountant, and offload all your bookkeeping to us; we'll take care of it all for one low ... low fixed fees, and take care of it all."
David Leary: Yeah, and they were doing the tour. They hit all the accounting conferences that summer; that summer, and fall. They were really just pitching everybody on this, like, "Hey, we have these magic bots that do all this work for you."
Blake Oliver: Yeah, yeah-
David Leary: Robo-bookkeeping.
Blake Oliver: Meanwhile, I'm sitting there, thinking, "Hmm ..." I don't know, given what I know about artificial intelligence, and the state of machine learning, and all that stuff, I feel like, if this were possible, then a bigger company would have been doing it; like Intuit would be doing it, completely automating coding with AI, or Xero would be doing it, or Sage would be doing it.
David Leary: I've always taken that ... That's always been my point of view. I've always felt like the people that are winning that AI game are the Googles, the Apples, the Microsofts, the Amazons of the world - people that have billions, and billions, and billions of data points.
David Leary: To do this, my bet ... If somebody's gonna build this magic AI that does tons, and tons of bookkeeping automatically, it's Intuit, or Xero, people that have millions of customers. I don't think you could do it, if you're kind of in a pseudo-accounting firm ... They're small, right?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: I just think you have to have billions of data points to really build AI is kinda my point of view.
Blake Oliver: At my company, we've been talking about how are we gonna build more AI into our tool. Really, the options are either we buy something that already exists from, say, Amazon, or we hire 10 really expensive data scientists, and do it ourselves. What do you think we're gonna do as a relatively small company with 150 people? We're not gonna go hire 10 expensive data scientists. To me, this just never made sense.
Blake Oliver: Something happened this past week that made me question it further. I got a message, a Twitter message, from an accounting partner of Botkeeper who will remain anonymous. She sent me a screenshot of a form, her website form. Apparently, somebody went onto her website, and filled out a form, and said, "Botkeeper is not what it sells. It tells you that there is AI, but it is really a team in The Philippines that is doing the work. They have no AI, and the one tool they created does not work," and just copied and pasted that paragraph into every single field in her form.
David Leary: It's like most accountants, and bookkeepers, you have a Contact Us form on your website. Somebody went to her website, and pasted this in all the fields, and then hit Submit.
Blake Oliver: Yes. That alone is not necessarily newsworthy, because who knows where this is coming from? Maybe this is a competitor. It could just be somebody trying to smear their name, right?
David Leary: Yep.
Blake Oliver: Then, Botkeeper acknowledged that this had happened. Apparently, this person has been going around, and filling this information into a lot of accounting firms' forms that are also partnered with Botkeeper.
David Leary: What do you mean 'acknowledged?'.
Blake Oliver: They sent an email. Enrico Palmerino, the CEO, and founder of Botkeeper, sent an email to all of the accounting firm partners. This was forwarded to me. I'll just go ahead, and read it. "It was brought to our attention that we have had a disgruntled employee reach out to a few of our partners by submitting forms through their sites with the intention of spreading some rumors, and hurting our credibility. To ensure all of our clients are on the same page, and to avoid any confusion, or misconceptions about our offering, we wanted to reach out to proactively clear the air.
Blake Oliver: As most of our partners, and clients know, we leverage a team in The Philippines for data validation, administrative tasks, and some lower-level accounting functions. We also leverage various third-party tech where it makes sense, and build software only where we see a need, or gap. Lastly, a large portion of our product is made up of AI - artificial intelligence.
Blake Oliver: Our investor team, including Google, has every faith in our software, AI, and future of our business; enough that they invested $22.5 million into our company. We value the importance of transparency, so, if at any point, you have questions arise, please feel free to reach out to me personally. We apologize for any disruption this event may have caused. Warmest, Enrico Palmerino."
David Leary: Wow.
Blake Oliver: Knowing what you know about Botkeeper, and the interviews you've watched Enrico give, and talk about the product, or the service, or whatever it is, what's your take on this?
David Leary: In this letter, that third paragraph, the second sentence is, "We also leverage various third-party tech, where it makes sense." I think that's always been obvious. If you actually signed up for Botkeeper, and you started going through the license agreement, the terms of service, it actually lists the apps they use.
Blake Oliver: What are they using?
David Leary: Gusto, Bill.com, AutoEntry. It lists all the apps they use, and what the additional costs that will be for your service, as these apps are used. Somebody said they've been always straightforward that they're using QuickBooks Online, and Xero. It's always been very clear that third-party tools are involved.
David Leary: What's not been clear has been this impression that magic bots were doing all the magic work. That's what the message has been at the accounting shows in May, all summer, at QuickBooks Connect, over and over again, is this ... There was never said a team of people were doing this.
Blake Oliver: I never heard Enrico say, "We have a team in The Philippines doing the work.".
David Leary: Enrico did about a four-minute interview, a three-and-a-half-minute interview on Fox Business News, and he really implies, over and over again, that it's just AI. AI's doing this ... AI's doing this ... AI's doing this ... Over, and over. He never once in this interview, and this November, so this is a big, different tune. The tune that was sung by Enrico in November, November 27 ... What's that? What? 60 days ago?
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so-
David Leary: It's different than the tone today, or that email.
Blake Oliver: I think people should hear this, so we're gonna play now a clip from that interview. It was on, what, Fox Business News? I mean, that's crazy how much coverage they got.
Enrico Palmerino Clip: Thank you for having me. What Botkeeper has been able to do is build some really exciting technology that mimics the accountant brain; essentially how you interpret, or infer the transactions that come off of bank, and credit cards, or emails; understand what that data is, and then, how to apply, or what accounting policy, or procedure, and action should be taken on that data. The way a human has ...
David Leary: Yeah. They said it feels like it's a completely different tune from 60 days ago, 70 days ago, to that email that's sent out, and I think that's ... That email's news.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, I don't wanna speculate too much. Again, I've said I have my doubts, given that they don't even have their own accounting GL that they've built. I really wanna know how much this is automated, and how much of this is manual. Is it just another fancy way of running a bookkeeping service with some really slick marketing, and a way to raise a bunch of money from VCs, who, honestly ... They just hear the word 'artificial intelligence,' and they wanna give you money. Makes me wanna go out, and just create a pitch deck for something like this.
David Leary: Well, then, they should put blockchain in it.
Blake Oliver: Blockchain, as well, yep-
David Leary: That's the way to go on that.
Blake Oliver: If you're listening, and you have information into the state of Botkeeper, what they're really doing over there, then let us know. I'm @BlakeTOliver on Twitter.
David Leary: I'm @DavidLeary.
Blake Oliver: This has been one of the best parts about the whole Intuit news over the last few days is we're reaching out ... People are reaching out to us, and we're getting involved in these inside discussions, and we're able to bring that information to the accounting community, more widely, when it has been ... It's been hidden before, right? People have talked about it, but now it's getting out there.
David Leary: Continue to send us stories. People keep sending us stories now, so, we've kinda ... Some of this is tipped a little bit, but we're not the only ones talking about these stories. As we move on QuickBooks ... We will talk about QuickBooks Live again, right?
Blake Oliver: Well, there's been so much discussion. We gotta share what some other people are thinking about this.
David Leary: Yeah, and I think we have a big, good roundup, because tons of people have thoughts on this. We can rattle through these.
Blake Oliver: All right, let's do it.
David Leary: I think the first one is Xero had a response.
Blake Oliver: Yes. It would be nice to think that they listen to the podcast, you know? But I think that it would have been stupid for Xero not to do this, given that something like 90 percent of Xero end-users are connected to an accountant. That's been a very, very strong channel for them, globally, and in the United States, too.
Blake Oliver: Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas, wrote ... It's basically a love letter to bookkeepers, and it was appropriate that it came out on Valentine's Day. I just love the last bit in this very brief letter, She said, "At Xero, our choice is clear. Technology can only succeed when it improves human relationships. We believe people innovate. Technology doesn't."
David Leary: I talked about that, I think, in the last podcast, about it's a relationship game. We were talking about that's why the KPMG UK thing failed. I also mentioned Intuit's always been really good at relationships. I totally agree that the relationship's part of this.
David Leary: What stood out in this letter that they wrote was the paragraph, and let me read it, because I feel like it's saying one thing, and saying something else at the same time.
Blake Oliver: All right.
David Leary: "We must avoid the temptation to believe the hype that the future will soon be dominated solely by technology. This is the future already alive in the imaginations of many, where the work traditionally done by bookkeepers is eliminated, and replaced by AI, and on-demand services, or Uber-like services."
David Leary: I read this, and I kinda feel like what does it mean? Is she saying this is just hype, or is she saying it's not hype, because it's not even gonna be here in the future; it's here today, and that's just the deal?
Blake Oliver: I've been thinking about this, too, actually, and I'm not sure if this is where Xero is going with this, but here's my take. The messaging from Intuit, and from a lot of folks who support QuickBooks Live, has been that bookkeepers, accountants really don't want to be doing the low-level bookkeeping work: the categorization of transactions, the reconciling of accounts, and that what they really should be doing is moving into advisory type work. That's the message of Joe Woodward's entire conference, Scaling New Heights, coming up; The Transformative Advisor.
Blake Oliver: I'm not sure that works, because bookkeepers, and accountants are very intellectual people. They're data-driven people. We are ... I'm a CPA. I am a data-driven person. I couldn't imagine anything worse than being considered a business coach. I hate that term, and I hate the idea of just being an advisor. I don't understand, what's the value that I bring as an advisor, if I don't bring data?
Blake Oliver: I think that rather than being advisors, accountants, and bookkeepers, we need to become data analysts. We need to use data, and dig into it, and spend time analyzing it, so that we can provide real insights. The problem I have with outsourcing the bookkeeping ... If I were running a firm, I wouldn't wanna outsource the bookkeeping; I would wanna do it myself, because I don't trust data that somebody else created.
Blake Oliver: How can I trust that the QuickBooks Live bookkeeper did a good job, or that Botkeeper did a good job? I'd probably have to do just as much work to go, and verify the data, as to do it myself, at this point. That's why I don't buy this 'give up the low-level bookkeeping, and just do the advisory.' I think you really need to do it all to provide good advisory.
David Leary: Totally agree, especially this ... We'll go through other people's takes on this, but that's what that ... If you're niche, you don't ... These generic services don't matter, because you're gonna be so good at bicycle repair shops, that you're gonna be able to automate, and make the bookkeeping awesome, but you're also gonna provide all sorts of extra value, because you're just an expert on everything about bike shops that nobody else is.
Blake Oliver: Exactly.
David Leary: Okay, got it.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, let's go through some of the other commentary. Cathy Iconis, she wrote an article on Accounting Today. What did she have ... She had a more positive take on this.
David Leary: For me, the one takeaway I saw in that article was actually the quote from Kim Asbaugh, and actually, she has her title. I know, a couple episodes ago, we didn't have her titled correctly. Kim Asbaugh, Senior Manager of Global Communications at Intuit, said, "Only 60 percent of those subscriptions for QBO have an accountant user attached to the account. That leaves 2 million subscribers who aren't even considering a bookkeeper, or an accountant at the moment.".
David Leary: I find that an amazing upside number, on one hand.
Blake Oliver: Mm-hmm. Right.
David Leary: Intuit could put the word 'bookkeeper' in front of 2 million people: "Hey, you probably should hire one of these bookkeepers, or add on a bookkeeper." I'm also kind of like, "Gees, does this kind of reinforce the whole point, where that's 2 million data points that proves they don't need a bookkeeper." I think that's a staggering stat. That's a lot of people that are kinda ... Maybe they have an in-house bookkeeper. Obviously those numbers are hard to tell, but that's ... There's still a lot of people that are running blind, small businesses, and I think that's a staggering stat.
Blake Oliver: Let's say that Intuit captures 10 percent of those 2 million businesses that aren't using a bookkeeper now, and get them to sign up for QuickBooks Live at $200 per month. That is something like half a billion dollars in annual recurring revenue.
David Leary: Not only that, that's good for small businesses, because Intuit has data that ... I think I actually saw some from Xero, as well. These small businesses, when they have an accountant helping them, or a bookkeeper helping them use QuickBooks Online, or Xero, they're just more successful. If Intuit can get 200,000 small businesses working with a bookkeeper, that's 200,000 more successful small businesses in this country. It's noble.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and that's Kathy's main point in this article, I feel like, is that by getting into the market, Intuit is going to increase the total market size for bookkeepers. They won't be stealing from the existing ProAdvisors; they'll be increasing the overall market.
David Leary: Yeah, the awareness.
Blake Oliver: Karen Reyburn, one of my favorite people on social media, runs a marketing firm for accounting firms, and bookkeepers, called The Profitable Firm. She said, in a LinkedIn article ... She actually gave 25 reasons why this is a good thing ... She wasn't saying that it's definitely a good thing; she was saying you might have conflicted feelings about this, but my argument - her argument - is always let's look on the positive side. "Always look on the bright side of life," to quote Monty Python.
Blake Oliver: She had, of course, 25 reasons why this could be considered a good thing. I liked her last point that she summarized at the end of the article. She said, "Because of QuickBooks Live, "you're now being pushed to be really, really clear about how you're different." This will push you to focus on the clients, and what they actually need.".
Blake Oliver: That's a very legitimate point that most accountants, and bookkeepers, right now, aren't figuring out how to differentiate themselves from the competition, and that having Intuit in there with a really strong baseline offering will force you to figure out how you're different. That's like what you said about the niche thing, right?
David Leary: Yeah, absolutely. I did not see this article, or read this article, so thank God you have good show notes, because I'll click on this, and read it later, after the fact, when I listen to the show.
Blake Oliver: Well, you did read the article that Mark Wickersham wrote, right?
David Leary: Yes, yes. Mark Wickersham had an article. Just a quick quote from his that I found interesting. "My view on Intuit's new test is that it hasn't changed anything for those in the profession who are forward-thinking, and willing to change. Machine learning, and artificial intelligence is getting better. We already know that. We knew we needed to change our services because of the technological advances in our profession. Intuit's experiment has just given us more immediacy to alter our service.".
Blake Oliver: So, similar ...
David Leary: Similar, like, the people that knew this was coming aren't really affected by this. Those of you that maybe were on the fence, you just got a little fire; you gotta get going.
Blake Oliver: The conversation continued on Twitter. Lorilyn Crum said, in a video, "The term 'bookkeeper' needs to go away. Instead, rebrand as an accounting technician, or accounting operations." I couldn't agree more. The term 'bookkeeper,' as we discussed in past episodes, doesn't make any sense anymore. There aren't any books. We're not keeping them. We're not entering transactions, according to the definition in the dictionary. Maybe the term 'bookkeeper' will evolve, or maybe it will go away, and be something else.
David Leary: Yeah, I think cloud automation expert would be a good title. I think there's a lot of good titles people could use. Then, the opposite side, if you're an accounting firm, and you're posting a job posting, probably don't advertise you want a bookkeeper, because that's gonna get you a certain set of applicants versus, say, I would like a cloud technician, or cloud accounting technician.
Blake Oliver: Excellent point. Finally, Mel Power weighed in, as well.
David Leary: Did you wanna read that? Oh, I guess it's my turn, right? All right, here we go ... Here we go. Yeah, Mel Power, that article is really good. She had a good quote in there, and it's similar to the other comments that have been made, but ... "With the introduction of cloud accounting, and further technology advancements in artificial intelligence, and machine learning within the accounting-vendor ecosystem, the labor-intensive process is reduced to almost zero. The truth of the matter is there is no value for highly skilled bookkeepers in doing data-entry work. We have all the tools available to do the job for us."
Blake Oliver: Couldn't agree more, and I think this just reinforces the idea that ... I feel like bookkeepers, who are moving into more advisory services, should still own the bookkeeping. I don't like the idea of outsourcing to another service, because I don't know the quality. I have to review it, that's probably gonna cost just as much as if I do it myself.
Blake Oliver: That's my question to folks who are supporting this QuickBooks Live, and are saying, "Oh, I'm gonna outsource the work of my firm to QuickBooks Live." How do you know that it's gonna be good? You're gonna have to review it, and that's gonna take time. Why not just do it? Doesn't take that long to do it these days.
David Leary: On one hand, the folks that know how to provide value are going to figure out how to have zero bookkeeping work in their own firm, because you can do it with off-the-shelf tools, and then, focus on that higher-value client stuff. That's really the recurring message in all of these. This is here; it's here now.
Blake Oliver: Well, so, hey, did you know it's tax season, David?
David Leary: The government shutdown's over? Taxes will be happening? Okay, I think I got it.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it's tax season. We haven't really been talking about it, but I saw an article that just kind of caused my brain to explode inside of my skull. It's on CNBC. The headline is, "Tampa man reported income of $18,497. IRS sent him a refund check for $980,000."
Blake Oliver: The gist of this article is that this guy had very little income. He filed a completely fraudulent tax return, saying that he paid $1 million in taxes, in withholdings. He had less than $20,000 in wages. Because the IRS only checks refunds manually, in excess of $2 million dollars, they just automatically sent him a check.
David Leary: This guy's a genius.
Blake Oliver: I know, right? Why isn't everybody ...
David Leary: This is the easiest hack ever.
Blake Oliver: To me, then ... You have to read down the article to find out that the IRS official threshold that triggers this internal control is $2 million. I almost can't say what I'm thinking, because it's so vulgar. What are they thinking over there? Why would you set it so high, at $2 million? Shouldn't you be probably checking every single refund that goes out that's even over, gosh, like $10,000? $100,000? Why [cross talk]
David Leary: The IRS can pay me a million dollars a year, and I will just sit there and audit these $1 million checks, and more. It'll be profitable for the IRS, and I'll be really happy to do it.
Blake Oliver: Here's a way that Enrico over a Botkeeper could really help us out is by applying his artificial intelligence, and machine learning to refunds that the IRS is processing. I think the dumbest AI in the world could figure out that this is not a real return.
David Leary: Yeah. Basically, it's [inaudible] a spam filter that could probably ...
Blake Oliver: That's our tax news. Over on the other side of the pond, in the UK, a rare medieval accountancy book is expected to sell for $1.5 million. Can you believe it? A book about accounting - $1.5 million. This is in The Financial Times. I love seeing this because this is accounting history in action.
Blake Oliver: The father of modern accounting, or the guy who is considered to be the father of bookkeeping, Luca Pacioli, he wrote a book in 1494, called the Summa de Arithmetica ... Summa de Arithmetica ... He's a mathematician. He was a mathematician, and in that book, it was supposed to be a compendium of everything known at the time about mathematics, but it was also a practical how-to guide to accounting, and business. He wrote down ... For the first time, he wrote down the concept of double-entry accounting, using debits and credits. That's why he gets credit as being the father of accounting.
Blake Oliver: There's very, very few copies of - original copies - of that book around, and one of them is going on auction at Christie's in London. It's gonna be on view in February. I think they're gonna auction it off over the summer. The accounting nerd in me just loves this. I really wanna go and see this book. If I had $1.5 million, I would definitely buy it, and put it in a museum somewhere with my name on the [cross talk]
David Leary: I'd love for somebody in our industry to buy that book.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, right?
David Leary: Scott Cook, somebody who's been around a long time, to buy that book, own that book, keep it in the family, if you wanna call it that - in the accounting world - and not just some collector's gonna take it, and go stick in a storage bin somewhere, and we're never gonna see this book for another 20 years, til it gets auctioned off again. I would love for somebody in the industry to buy that book, and keep it, share it with all accountants.
Blake Oliver: I think so. Maybe Intuit will build a museum to accounting.
David Leary: Actually, that's a good question. For all you listeners out there, I know there's an "Accounting Hall of Fame." Is there an accounting museum?
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
David Leary: If somebody knows if there's an accounting museum in their hometown, please shoot us an email. We'd love to find that out.
Blake Oliver: Hey, I'm not gonna wait. I'm doing a Google search.
David Leary: All right.
Blake Oliver: There is a Texas Accountancy museum exhibit at the TSCPA headquarters in Dallas. I guess it features historical accounting items, as well as informative panels covering the profession. There you go. I'll put the link to that in the show notes. That's the first Google result.
Blake Oliver: Anyway, before we finish with this story, fun fact: Luca Pacioli, father of accounting, who wrote this book, three years after his book was published in Venice - I think it was three years - he went to Milan, where he was roommates with Leonardo da Vinci. He taught Leonardo da Vinci mathematics, and they collaborated on a bunch of stuff. This guy, he was hanging out with Leonardo da Vinci, and he invented accounting. How cool is that?
David Leary: It's much cooler than anything we're doing these days. Yes, I see where that ... Yeah, amazing, amazing, amazing. See? Bookkeeping, that was the key.
Blake Oliver: There we go. I got another story here. This is about FinTech, blockchain. We haven't talked about blockchain in a long time on the podcast.
David Leary: Still exists? Okay, okay, still exists ... All right.
Blake Oliver: Still exists. You know my feelings about blockchain, David, right, that all those people talking about how blockchain's gonna put accountants out of business, and eliminate audit, it's all crap. It's just not gonna happen, at least in the short term.
Blake Oliver: Well, that's not to say that there aren't gonna be useful applications for blockchain, and here is one of them. J.P. Morgan is rolling out the first US-bank-backed cryptocurrency. The engineers at the bank, they've created a cryptocurrency called JPM coin.
Blake Oliver: It's not like Bitcoin, because it is linked directly to the US dollar. It's called a stable coin, meaning that it's not its own currency; it's like a derivative. The idea is that when you deposit money into your J.P. Morgan account, you will now be able to be issued JPM coins, which allow you to make international transfers much faster, and with less cost in wire transfers.
David Leary: Got it. In a way, because J.P. Morgan Chase, that's huge, between banks and investment firms, right?
Blake Oliver: Biggest bank in the world.
David Leary: Basically, this gives them a way to have their own internal way of flinging money around all over the world.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and they control it. It's a private type of blockchain, so they can ensure that it's safe. Basically, it allows people to transfer money internationally, directly, with J.P. Morgan's blessing, without having to go through their wire transfer desks, which just ... That's gonna speed up the process, hopefully bring down ... They didn't talk about bringing down costs, but I imagine eventually it will. Mostly now it's about just speeding it up; making it instant, rather than having to wait a day for a wire transfer to clear.
David Leary: I feel like I heard this on a podcast, earlier this week; Economics podcast, or something.
Blake Oliver: It was on Marketplace. It was a big deal. If you listen NPR Marketplace Report.
David Leary: When I heard it, I immediately thought about Veem, who's our sponsor, because it's kind of what Veem is doing that; they're using alternative technologies to move money around, and bypass the typical wire-transfer system.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: That's what J.P. Morgan 's gonna do- is doing a similar thing.
Blake Oliver: What's cool about Veem, though, is that it's not limited to any particular bank.
David Leary: Exactly.
Blake Oliver: You don't have to bank at Chase to use Veem. Actually, I was really excited when we got Veem as a sponsor - this is the second episode they've sponsored - because they are really the one of the actual SaaS applications, or developers that are really using blockchain for something useful. It's not just talk. Blockchain is one of the ways they transfer money around behind the scenes to make your international transfers less expensive.
David Leary: Yeah, and I think the other difference is you could use Veem today; any small business can. I suspect that this coin's probably gonna be for huge hundred-million-dollar transfers that are going around the world first. The average small business owner is not gonna get access to this technology stack yet, at J.P. Morgan Chase, for sure.
Blake Oliver: Right. Right. Speaking of FinTech, we talked about Bill.com, and this new Vendor Pay by Bill.com feature that American Express is offering last week. Now, I'm a little bit embarrassed, because listening back on that, it was a lot of speculation, because we didn't have a lot of information, and I was wrong about how this is gonna work, and-
David Leary: I feel like all we saw ... There was a video, and a LinkedIn. We actually even made a comment about that last week. There's a video. It's really interesting, but I don't see the article. There was nothing. There was a press release, but no info.
David Leary: Right. Thankfully, Stephen Brown, who runs LedgerGurus, reached out on Twitter, and he very nicely sent us a FAQs that Amex sent to him. Now we know a lot more about how it's gonna work. The FAQs says that this is actually going to be through the American Express website, not the Bill.com website. This is more similar to the Bill.com payment portals that you can now get through Chase, or through Bank of America. It's built into their product. It's Amex Vendor Pay powered by Bill.com, not Amex inside of the Bill. com that we know and love.
Blake Oliver: It's available to American Express business, and corporate card members. They can sign up for this, and they can use Bill.com's technology to send payments to their vendors using virtual cards, and actually, it's free, for one user per month. You log into Amex. You can send virtual payments. What happens is that the vendors receive an email with a one-time-use virtual card number, and expiration date, and code. They can use that to charge you for the invoice, or whatever it is, and then it doesn't work after that. That's the free thing, and Bill.com is powering that whole workflow.
Blake Oliver: If you want some of the more advanced Bill.com features, like sync to QuickBooks, and Xero, approvals, you have to pay for that. That starts at $59 per user per month for that. Then they have an advanced feature that includes syncing with NetSuite, and Intacct for $99 per user per month.
Blake Oliver: What's really neat is that, actually, to pay your bills by American Express is free, completely free. There's no 50 cents per transaction, $1 per transaction, $2 per check, any of that, if you pay with your Amex card, using the service. Kind of a really neat ... If I were an American Express customer, and I were happy, I would love this service.
Blake Oliver: Only downside is that you can't ... It doesn't sync with the existing Bill.com, so you can't migrate your existing Bill.com account over there. It's only for new sign-ups through American Express. Stephen had a take on this. He said that it's interesting for Amex, but he's worried that it ... Concerned that it fragments the Bill.com experience somewhat. He says, "The industry needs integration, not fragmentation; AP tools need to facilitate payment via any method. There is value in the control, and the visibility, so give people the ability to pay however they want. The AP tools that do such, and integrate seamlessly with accounting software would likely be the winners." Thank you, Stephen, for sending over that info; we really appreciate it.
David Leary: That's a good point. I think virtual card numbers are gonna be a thing. I think they're slowly sneaking up on people this year, but more, and more people are ... The need for virtual card numbers is becoming kind of clear, and all the players now - Visa, MasterCard, and now [inaudible] Amex - are creating either APIs, or however they're doing it, they're letting third-party apps spin up virtual cards. I think that's gonna be a big play this year, as the year goes on.
Blake Oliver: Love it. You've got some news from down under, right, David?
David Leary: Yeah, Reckon, who, I think, historically speaking, they were the QuickBooks Desktop of Australia. I think they were even co-branded at one time. A few months back, MYOB, historically speaking, kind of was the winner of Australia, and then Xero came along, and disrupted MYOB. MYOB was gonna purchase Reckon, and then it failed. Now, Reckon has completely changed their direction ... The headline is, "Reckon Shifts Strategy in MYOB-Xero Rivalry."
David Leary: What they're doing is they decided to pull out of marketing their accounting software directly to small businesses. Instead, they're gonna work with the Institute of Public Accountants, and white-label their solution.
Blake Oliver: Wow. This is an accounting association, like the AICPA, here in the United States, that is white-labeling accounting software to their members?
David Leary: That's what it sounds like, yes..
Blake Oliver: I know the AICPA has CPA.com, which has partnerships with accounting software providers like Bill.com, and whatnot, but to actually do it directly through your association? It sounds like a bit of a conflict.
David Leary: I don't know if it's a conflict, or if it's a desperation play at this point. There's actually a quote from their Chief Executive, Sam Allert. He said, "We run our own race. We run different business to MYOB, or Xero, but their model is to throw a lot of money into things like marketing." It sounds like, "We don't any budget left for marketing; we're gonna try this white-label thing," and that's it. Saying you're not gonna market your product is almost like giving up, in a strange way.
Blake Oliver: Like you said, they've basically conceded the direct market.
David Leary: That's the news. I don't think there's anything else.
Blake Oliver: Well, that was a lot of fun; a lot of news this week. Botkeeper, QuickBooks Live, IRS issues, a rare accounting book, J.P. Morgan doing blockchain, Bill.com partnering with Amex. Hopefully, we have just as much next week.
David Leary: Hopefully?
Blake Oliver: If people ... Hey, we rely on our listeners now to help us source these stories. We would not have known about Botkeeper if it wasn't for our friend, who shall remain anonymous. If you have information that other accountants, and bookkeepers looking to stay on top of technology need to know, you can send it to us on Twitter. I'm @BlakeTOliver-.
David Leary: And I'm @DavidLeary.
Blake Oliver: Connect with us on LinkedIn. Make sure to like our Facebook page on Facebook. Just put in Cloud Accounting Podcast, and you will be able to follow us on Facebook, where we post out links to the articles that we discussed.
Blake Oliver: If you wanna get show notes automatically emailed to you every week, when we drop the podcast, join my mailing list. If you go to Cloud Accounting Podcast dot com (cloudaccountingpodcast.com), you can subscribe right there. Click the blue Subscribe banner, and subscribe right there to my email list, and you'll get the show notes emailed to you automatically, the day after an episode drops. You'll have all the links to all the articles, all the extra screenshots in there. You can follow up on this after you get out of your car, and you want to read more.
David Leary: I'm subscribed, so hopefully, everybody else does.
Blake Oliver: All right, well, hey, it was a pleasure as usual, David, and happy 50th.
David Leary: Here's the 50 more. Let's be more conscious about this. When we hit Episode 100, we'll have to really make it a little more celebratory, because we did not celebrate at all for 50th, so we're going for 100.
Blake Oliver: Maybe by then, we'll have a sponsor that'll throw us a party. That would be nice.
David Leary: We'll see; we'll see. Perfect. Awesome. On that note, Blake, I'll see everybody next week.
Blake Oliver: See you next week.
David Leary: Bye.
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