Article image obviously generated by AI.
Reported by Bloomberg last week, PwC is putting AI to work. Officially.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP has teamed up with ChatGPT owner OpenAI to offer clients advice generated by artificial intelligence as the Big Four audit firms look to cut costs and boost productivity. [emphasis ours]
The accounting firm will use AI to consult on complex matters in tax, legal and human resources, such as carrying out due diligence on companies, identifying compliance issues and even recommending whether to authorize business deals.
PwC is the first of the Big 4 to partner with OpenAI. A $1 billion AI investment and some scheme to use GPT-4 and Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service was announced in April.
Speaking of Microsoft, KPMG announced its own partnership with Microsoft over the summer, a $2 billion investment in artificial intelligence and cloud services over five years that the firm expects to bring in $12 billion over that period. The timing of that particular partnership was not great.
Not a great look after laying off 5% of the workforce two weeks ago 🤦
One of those laid off in that round told us it’s “a slap in the face.” https://t.co/e09WUqBOZk
— Going Concern (@going_concern) July 12, 2023
ANYWAY, the above is relevant given the latest OpenAI announcement as the AI will “consult on complex matters,” probably with superior efficiency and accuracy to early career consultants which isn’t saying much about either’s abilities. Of the concern that this technology will put people out of jobs, PwC chief products and technology officer Joe Atkinson has been quoted many times in many places assuring PwCers that AI will complement their job, not steal it.
For example, this is from “Big Four Agree: AI Will Not Replace Accountants” published in the NYSSCPA newspaper in August:
“I think there’s a role for both,” he told Accounting Today. “I’m not a purist on one side or the other. But I think the power of augmentation ultimately will unlock the power of automation by itself. We’ve been on the automation journey [for many years] and we’ve benefited enormously.”
“I don’t love a vision of allowing a computer to do [an engagement] end to end,” said Atkinson. “This is where you get into the trust, integrity and responsible use of AI. AI tools are really good at pulling out information and making predictive choices but they can’t replace human judgment.”
What spurred the [$1 AI investment] initiative was the chief executive’s trip to the World Economic Forum’s gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where he heard constant discussion of generative A.I.
“A number of us walking out of that room knew something had changed,” recalled Joe Atkinson, the company’s chief products and technology officer.
PwC’s workers have expressed fears about displacement, according to Mr. Atkinson, especially as their company explores automating roles with generative A.I. Mr. Atkinson stressed, though, that PwC planned to retrain people with new technical skills so their work would change but their jobs wouldn’t be eliminated.
Back to Bloomberg:
The OpenAI partnership, which is not based on ChatGPT, won’t result in jobs cuts in the near-term, PwC said. [emphasis again ours]
PwC’s new AI system is already “behaving like a 25-year tenure partner,” Bivek Sharma, chief operating officer for tax, legal and people at PwC UK, said in an interview Monday.
“The compliance burden globally is increasing and with geopolitics, the level of complexity that the C-suite is facing is like you’ve never seen before,” said Sharma. “A lot of people talk about how there’s gonna be job displacement with AI, but the reality, to navigate these very complex situations, AI is going to be necessary to actually do that work.”
All this time we’ve been worried about the low level grunts getting put out of a job by technology, do partners have to worry too?