06Jun

More than ever, customers are turning to online banking to pay bills, transfer funds, and handle transactions they would have visited a branch for just a few months ago.

Baby Boomers, the generation most reluctant to have downloaded their bank’s mobile app, have embraced online banking in record numbers. Shortly after businesses were ordered closed, The Senior List found 77% of older Americans had conducted a financial transaction online.

This embrace of mobile banking is one of the banking trends that is here to stay, says an article in Forbes.

“It’s not just Boomers who are swiping right on online banking,” says Forbes. Citing a Boston Consulting Group survey conducted in June, the article notes that in the first three months of the pandemic 44% of 18-34 year olds enrolled for the first time in online or mobile banking.

Overall, Fidelity National Information Services, a service provider to the banking industry, reported new mobile banking registrations increased by 200%, and mobile banking traffic increased 85%.

“Once customers experience the convenience of mobile, they very well may never go back to traditional banking,” the Forbes article says. The Boston Group found a quarter of the new remote banking users claim they will visit bank branches less frequently in the future or not at all.

While e-commerce has exploded during the pandemic, banks have taken steps to streamline the payment process in brick and mortar stores. Forbes says some banks upgraded physical debit and credit cards to enable tap to pay. “Consumer usage of platforms like Apple Pay and retailer deployment of embedded contactless payment terminals like Square has also reached unprecedented levels,” the article reports.

In one area that before COVID hadn’t attained much traction, fintech startups and the industry generally have seen a spurt in demand for money management tools. Though 75% of respondents to a survey reported never using a personal finance app, since the pandemic 16% have. Here, it’s Gen Z and Boomers that are more aggressively turning to these services. A SYKES survey reported 23% of Gen Z and 18% of Boomers said they were new users to personal finance and budget apps.

“Fintech is an ever-evolving landscape — and it’s one that the pandemic has sent shock waves rippling throughout,” says Forbes, which concludes on this note: “Thanks to fundamental shifts in the way consumers perceive and depend upon digital finance tools today, these fintech trends just may stick around long after people have holstered their hand sanitizer.”

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Green Key

The New Role AI Can Play In Accounting

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“But,” says AccountingToday, “AI is for more than just automating processes and creating efficiencies — now is the time for firms to be creative, thinking about new industry-specific applications and firm-specific pain points where AI can play a role.”

Driven by the COVID pandemic, there’s been a mass migration of businesses to cloud-based services. This includes accounting firms of all sizes, who now see the benefits of the cloud and especially the automation that artificial intelligence-powered services can bring to routine and time-consuming tasks.

Deloitte report found three-quarters of business executives believe AI will transform their organization in less than three years. To be competitive and remain relevant, says the AccountingToday article, “Firms working with enterprise clients must consider AI seriously.”

A second AccountingToday article notes, “Today, artificial intelligence is transforming processes across the accounting profession, for those who are ready to invest in and adopt it.”

However, the benefits won’t be realized immediately. “It takes [time] to adopt the software and to validate it, to train it enough for a firm to realize its benefits. The machine has to learn.”

The article – “AI, applied: Opening the black box” – goes into detail about a few new AI applications for audit, tax, accounts payable and receivable.

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Discussing a new AI accounts receivable program, the article explains, “The platform automates the invoicing process so bills are sent in a timely manner, but it also learns a client’s payment habits over time. How many emails or messages does it take before an invoice is opened and viewed? How many contacts does it take before a client pays the bill? Each client is different, and therein lies the art.”

To learn that takes time. In discussing an AI accounts payable process at Armanino, a top 100 firm, Youngseung Kuk estimated it will take the program three years to predict client behavior and needs at a close-to-perfect rate.

“The time spent validating is worth it, because by the end, as a firm, we’re going to be so much more scalable,” said Kuk, who manages business outsourcing services for the firm.

At Garbelman Winslow CPAs, partner Samantha Bowling said an AI program she brought in three years ago is still in the adoption phase, though it is already being used for many audits. “There is no substitute for time to allow an artificial intelligence platform to live up to its true potential,” the AccountingToday article says.

“This takes an investment both of money and patience, but for the willing, it’s worth it.”

Photo by Scott Graham

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