Is your QuickBooks secure in the cloud? Four hosting companies ransomwared

Blake and David celebrate their 100th episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast with guest Rachel Fisch by discussing the ongoing iNSYNQ ransomware debacle, the challenges of using AI to perform audits, where to find top accounting talent, how OnDeck aims to become a bank, and even more of the latest news in the accounting and bookkeeping world.


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Rachel Fisch: "AI will not replace auditors, but auditors that use AI will replace auditors that don't."
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Blake Oliver: Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.
David Leary: And I'm David Leary.
Rachel Fisch: And I'm Rachel Fisch.
Blake Oliver: Hey, Rachel, thanks for joining us so much, on short notice. It's gonna be great to have you here for our regular news episode.
Rachel Fisch: Hey, no, it's totally my pleasure. How it came about was kinda funny. Blake and I were just talking about actually a previous episode [00:01:30] about MindBridge, and I had some thoughts about AI, and= accounting, and audit-
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
Rachel Fisch: -and he's like, "Hey, you should come back, and let's talk about this." So, here I am.
David Leary: They're a Canadian company, so you have extra cred to speak on this. 
Rachel Fisch: They are, yeah.
David Leary: Okay. 
Rachel Fisch: Extra special place in my heart for MindBridge. 
Blake Oliver: Awesome. We'll talk about MindBridge. I'm eager to learn more about it, and AI in accounting, and everything that's going on in that world. First, some breaking news, or at least a story that has just refused to stop breaking over the last two weeks - the iNSYNQ [00:02:00] outage. We're talking about the cloud-hosting company. It's a hosting provider of QuickBooks Online- I'm sorry, not QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop hosting, as well as Sage hosting. They have been out for how long is it, David?
David Leary: We covered it last week. I think it was June 16th this started, and- 
Blake Oliver: June 16th- 
David Leary: -they reported it publicly to their customers on the 19th, I think it was?
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so, almost two weeks now, they've been ... At least some customers we're seeing on Twitter are [00:02:30] still unable to access their iNSYNQ-cloud desktops. What, that's 13 days? On July 16th, iNSYNQ was the victim of a MegaCortex ransomware attack. That is the sort of malware that gets into your systems and encrypts files. Then the hackers typically demand payment in bitcoin to unencrypt them. Paying the hackers, though, doesn't always get your files unencrypted. You're taking a bet. [00:03:00] Apparently, many people, even though they're able to get into their iNSYNQ desktops now, there are still some encrypted files.
There's an update on the iNSYNQ website, as of July 29th, and I should say, we're recording July 29th, and this update was at 5:50 Pacific Time; just a few hours ago. It says that, "Nearly all iNSYNQ customers now have access to their iNSYNQ desktop. Our work isn't done, though, and we'll continue to work around the clock until [00:03:30] every desktop is restored. Your applications may not be immediately accessible and/or populates your account ..." They're saying most people have access; they're not able to access all their applications. They also go on to say, "While we caught the attack early, the malware was able to encrypt some files. We're currently working to determine if they are recoverable. You may see some encrypted files on your desktop with ‘.MegaCortex' as an extension. They are not available to access."
David Leary: I thought I saw somebody tweet that. I think I saw somebody tweet specifically that - that they had a file on their desktop that was [00:04:00] labeled that. Yeah. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so, that's the current status. It is not the best situation. There are definitely still people who aren't able to access. There's folks on Twitter saying that ... For instance, just recently, today, @rh224 said, "Still can't access," and that support lines are ringing busy. Cecilia - username is @ItsMe_CeciliaB - said yesterday that [00:04:30] she was on hold for over an hour and 10 minutes and their server is still down; can't get through to customer support. It's very, very unfortunate. David, why are we talking about cloud hosting on The Cloud Accounting Podcast? Right?
David Leary: We talked about the MegaCortex a couple weeks ago. You did extra research after ... Remember, CCH suffered the same problem.
Blake Oliver: Yep. 
David Leary: I feel like it was only four or five weeks ago.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
David Leary: Then you did the research in the background. That MegaCortex, apparently, is all tied to some backdoor in Windows that [00:05:00] the NSA discovered, a vulnerability, and now it's being exploited everywhere.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah ... Well, you found this. You found that the NSA issued an advisory months ago, specifically to-
David Leary: Homeland Security issued- 
Blake Oliver: Oh, Homeland Security ... 
David Leary: Yes, on October 3rd of 2018, Homeland Security issued a warning to hosting providers that they had reason to believe there's going to be attacks coming, in ransomware.
Blake Oliver: Do you think these hosting providers were aware of this? Do we know [00:05:30] if iNSYNQ knew about this Homeland Security warning at all? It seems like they were not ready for this, but ...
David Leary: That I don't know. I found this on ... There's a whole site. We call it QuickBooks Desktop hosting in our world, right?
Blake Oliver: Right.
David Leary: Apparently, there's a whole other world, and they call it a managed service providers.
Blake Oliver: Oh, so these are people who do hosting for all sorts of things, not just QuickBooks, or Sage, or whatever- 
David Leary: All kinds of stuff ... They do a lot of stuff for government agencies, as well. So, lots [00:06:00] of people use hosting environments. It's not just a QuickBooks hosting thing. Really, I think if you would take the niche of QuickBooks hosting, they're part of a bigger - they're call it managed service providers - space that's out there. Because what I did is, I started poking around this weekend, and that's how I found this.
Blake Oliver: We reached out- I reached out on Twitter to Elliot Luchansky, who is the CEO of iNSYNQ, and asked him if he would come on the podcast. He replied very quickly and said, yes, that he would be [00:06:30] happy to join the podcast. He said, "Thank you for reaching out. I'd absolutely be open to this. In fact, I appreciate the platform to speak to these points with a neutral party such as yourself. We were really excited. We were gonna have him on today. It's Monday- 
David Leary: Well, they even tweeted at us, because they listened to the podcast that we recorded last week. They listened to it, and said, "Hey, we got extra clarifications ... Can't wait to join."  
Blake Oliver: Then, on Friday, we got an email saying that he backed out. Unfortunately, we don't have Elliot on the show [00:07:00] to ask him these questions. I still have lots of questions, like how did this happen in the first place? When are these people going to actually get access to their files? iNSYNQ with saying that it would be done this weekend, but apparently, it's still not. What about the files that are encrypted? Are those ever going to get unencrypted? We just don't know- 
David Leary: Maybe Elliot doesn't know either, at this point. The ideal situation for him would be to show up on Monday and be like, "Everything's fixed! Woo Hoo!" Right? 
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: Obviously, based on what you said was on their site earlier today, they're not out of the weeds yet. He's probably had a very [00:07:30] difficult 14 days [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and I don't wanna speculate, but that's unfortunately all we can do, because we also invited him to - if he didn't wanna come on the show - send us a statement, and then radio silence. Nothing. 
David Leary: At least they put a statement on their website of where they're at now, because I think some of the problems they've had is people are accusing them of turning their Twitter account off, doing fake tweets- 
Blake Oliver: Well, they did. 
David Leary: -deleting Facebook posts, or hiding messages.
Blake Oliver: This goes back to when the whole CCH outage happened - the way the tech companies handle a crisis like this. [00:08:00] This was a classic example of what you shouldn't do, at least in my opinion. I don't know what you think, David, but what they were doing at first was basically trying to hide it. They deactivated their Twitter account, apparently. Then, on Facebook, they were ... I didn't verify this myself, but people are saying that they were deleting or hiding posts from users about the outage.
David Leary: It's Cluetrain 101. Again, everybody that has customers should go read The Cluetrain Manifesto. You cannot [00:08:30] control the message. The conversation's gonna happen with or without you, and you have to jump in and join the conversation. You cannot control the conversation. You just can't. It's impossible in this day and age. 
Blake Oliver: That's what we know about iNSYNQ. The last thing I wanna talk about on this subject is Intuit, o it because, you know, I have to pull Intuit into everything, right, David? That's like my job, apparently. One of the sites that I discovered ... I think it was somebody on Twitter pointed it out to me, or maybe you found it, David; it's [00:09:00] the Intuit hosting program website - This is a site that lists the authorized hosting companies. Apparently, in order to host QuickBooks, you're actually supposed to be authorized by Intuit. There's a wall of logos on this site; it looks like one, two, three, four, five ... 16 companies listed as authorized commercial hosting providers.
David Leary: Yeah, they almost have two tiers, like a premium authorized hosts, and then the second tier of some type. [00:09:30]
Blake Oliver: If I were a QuickBooks Desktop customer, this is where I would probably go first to find a host, because I'm looking for somebody who Intuit is recommending to me, right? Right up at the top, the headline is, "Are you using and Intuit-authorized hosting company?" "Intuit partners with more than 20 companies who are thoroughly screened to ensure your data is safe and that your business is not at risk. Intuit-authorized hosting companies are listed below. If you have any questions, please contact" That, [00:10:00] to me, means Intuit is vouching for the security of these providers. My business is not at risk. Then, Byron Patrick directed us to the Frequently Asked Questions, because Byron- 
David Leary: He's @byron_CPA on Twitter.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. He previously worked in the hosting world. On the Frequently Asked Questions, which is available via the menu, there is a list of questions. The second to the [00:10:30] last one, and you have to actually unfurl it to get this answer .... The second to the last question says, "What does the authorized commercial host and authorized standard host statement and logo mean?" It says, "This statement and logo mean only that Intuit has entered into a written agreement with the commercial or standard host, which legally authorizes them to remotely host certain versions of QuickBooks software for access and usage by properly licensed end-users. It does not mean that Intuit sponsors, certifies, prefers or is officially, or exclusively partnered with commercial or standard hosts."  [00:11:00]
Now another question on the Frequently Asked Questions, right above that, "Is my data secure when using the Intuit hosting program?" The answer, "While Intuit provides legal authorization to participating hosts, Intuit does not certify, guarantee, or warrant individual commercial and standard host services, or hosting environments. The commercial and standard hosts who participate in the program are solely responsible for the security, privacy, availability, and backup of QuickBooks data files and the software that they host in accordance with their end-user hosting-service [00:11:30] agreements." That seems to completely disavow any responsibility and does not match up with what I'm seeing on that commercial hosting program page.
David Leary: Looking at that page, I can tell you that, based on my experience, the page is a little old; it's in the branding, and the format of the page. It does feel like it's a little bit old. The other reason I'd suspect that that page is a little old and out of date, as well, is the fact that some of these companies have merged with some of the other companies, but [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: Oh, and they still have the separate logos.
David Leary: Yeah. What [00:12:00] concerns me about that page is, doing a little bit of Google searches ... Just type that company name and ransomware; type that company name and hacked; or, of these companies on that page have now been ransomwared.
Blake Oliver: This is four of 20.
David Leary: Well, I think one of them's in that second tier, whatever the ... I don't understand those two levels that they have there. 
Blake Oliver: Three of the top 16, or the commercial hosting providers, have been ransomwared. Then, there's the standard hosting program, which has another dozen, or 20, [00:12:30] or something like that, yeah ... But that four of them- four of these companies have been ransomed? That does not ... We could start playing bingo on this thing, right? 
David Leary: If you just go ... Make the circle a little bit bigger to tax software. Then, now, CCH. That's five. Is this becoming ...? In the meantime, I can think of one., there's like what, 650 apps there, right? 
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: They all go through security review once a year to get to stay on [00:13:00] You think QuickBooks Online, Xero - all the SaaS products that are out there [cross talk] small business ... There was one, ComplyRight, which, I think people know them as eFile4Biz. They did have a data breach, but nobody suffered. The true SaaS players don't seem to be suffering this. It's these hosting players that are having these problems.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, well, it's because, as we've said, hosting relies on old technology that is fundamentally unsecure, because it relies on Windows as [00:13:30] the server. Time and time again, we've seen that the whole foundation of it is not secure. There's many holes, and people are discovering new ones all the time.
David Leary: There is an op-ed-type opinion piece that's in one of these managed server provide websites. It's a wakeup call to this industry, like, "If we keep being hacked like this, our whole industry is gonna collapse." We'll have that in the show notes to read. Then, I'm gonna get a tweet to read. That is from Jack Newton. He is the founder of Clio law firm software, which is law firm software in the cloud. I [00:14:00] think they've seen ... With a lot of the old legacy law firm software, a lot of that's hosted, and a lot of law firms use these hosted environments. He actually had a really good quote that I want to get. While I pull that up, Blake, why don't you tell us your next little piece of this you have?
Blake Oliver: My take on this is just that iNSYNQ owes more to its customers. As a CPA who has been in practice, I'm just so offended by the response on behalf of the customers. If I were a customer, this would not be acceptable to be down for two [00:14:30] weeks and not have access to my files. There really should have been backups available instantly. As a software guy, I sympathize, because I work for a tech company now, and I have a behind-the-scenes view into the difficulty in securing environments, but that doesn't excuse the really, really poor response, both to the customers and, frankly, to us, when we're trying to find information out for the community. To say you're gonna come on the show and then not come on the show, I [00:15:00] think, is cowardly and just reflects a really poor understanding of modern public relations and how you are supposed to interact with your customers and the press - if we can even be called that. I would hope that somebody would think of us at least as representing the community or trying to find out stuff on behalf of the community. That's my take.
David Leary: Okay, so I found Jack's quote here. This is a tweet from Jack [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: This is the CEO of Clio, the online law firm management software.
David Leary: Yep. "Hosted cloud [00:15:30] solutions are the unholy combination of on-premise and cloud technologies, combining the worst aspects of on-prem with a 'false' cloud. Hopefully, this devastating ransomware attack highlights how dangerous this model is and helps kill it." 
Blake Oliver: That says it all.
David Leary: My opinion on this if I feel like you're paying a premium, right? I think I mentioned this in last week's episode. You're outsourcing your IT. All the marketing materials from all these companies is, "We're gonna keep you from being hacked. We have IT; we [00:16:00] have all the security." You're paying a premium to outsource your IT department.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: In a way, you're becoming a bigger target, because now, instead of it just being you, lonely-
Blake Oliver: You're a small firm, yeah. 
David Leary: -small firm; nobody cares that you even exist. They're not actively targeting you. Now, you just pulled yourself in with thousands of other accountants, and now you're a target. You're paying a premium to get ransomwared. It's a little bit insane, and I kinda feel like is the pendulum completely swung the other way now, where you're [00:16:30] putting your clients at risk because you have them on hosted, when maybe you really need to swing the other way to a true QuickBooks Online model, to a true SaaS model? 
Blake Oliver: Either that or it needs to be a provider that you have personally vetted; you understand their security policies; in the same way that you would vet your own at your office. We just can't trust that these folks are doing it. The irony, of course, is that iNSYNQ has a blog post called "Five Ways to Avoid a Ransomware Attack."
David Leary: That's marketing. That's always gonna happen ... Obviously, Rachel's here. 
Rachel Fisch: Hey, guys [cross talk]. [00:17:00]
David Leary: -we had to inform Rachel, which was this is not just a QuickBooks story. Rachel's with Sage, and-
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
Rachel Fisch: Right. 
David Leary: -they do Sage hosting, as well, so this is [cross talk] bigger, bigger influence.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, so, Rachel, I know this is not your story. You didn't know we were necessarily gonna talk about this or anything-.
Rachel Fisch: That's okay. 
Blake Oliver: I'm just curious to know, when people ask you about Sage hosting or whatnot, how does Sage handle this? What do you guys say? 
Rachel Fisch: So, I can't speak to the security thing, but [00:17:30] I think one of the things that I get a lot of is that a lot of people, I think, equate Sage with desktop. I think that, historically, we've had really strong desktop programs, which is great to fill that need. But I think I kinda need to announce to the world, hey, guys, we've got a ton of cloud-native products, as well. We are actively migrating Sage Desktop files to Sage Cloud. We [00:18:00] do have- we're working with firms who are going full-on cloud.
If feels like it's Sage Desktop versus QuickBooks and Xero Cloud world, and it just isn't. We're actually facing the exact same things, where cloud-hosted does not equal native cloud. We're having all of the same conversations. I'd be interested to see what kind of authorizations ... In this case, where it's got the Intuit-hosted, [00:18:30] authorized-hosting team, and whatever that looks like, I would definitely be interested to see what that looks like on the Sage side, to see if there are any extra steps that we take to protect the clients, for sure.
Blake Oliver: Well, I don't know a ton about the Sage Desktop products, but I do know that some of the products have what I've heard described as a hybrid cloud, where the file is ... It's like you take the file and Sage [00:19:00] puts it into the cloud and then you can read-write to that file, but you're still using the desktop interface and software?
Rachel Fisch: Yeah. There's different models, and the idea is that you're able to work fully in the desktop in a cloud-connected environment, or be able to collaborate with the desktop file, with your client. So, for example, there's something like Sage Drive, where I can use it with my local drive, and then I can save it in Sage Drive, and then my client's gonna take it down, and do the work, and then put it back in Sage Drive so that I can collaborate. Essentially, [00:19:30] that's just our own self hosting, but then at least you've got our brand behind that, and we're not trying to verify other users or other companies, right?
Blake Oliver: Yes, and that's where I think Intuit may have made a mistake in this program, which is in creating these commercial authorized-hosting providers, consumers don't know what that means.
Rachel Fisch: Right.
Blake Oliver: They see the Intuit brand or the logo on the website, and they think that this is safe. It's clearly not, because it's not like Intuit [00:20:00] is going in and auditing these providers. I guess they have the right to do so, but from what I'm hearing online, this doesn't happen. So, really, they're just trusting these providers. Really, it's a financial relationship.
Rachel Fisch: So, people don't read all of the terms, and conditions, and FAQs when they sign up for this stuff? I'm shocked. 
Blake Oliver: Amazingly right?
Rachel Fisch: I'm shocked. 
Blake Oliver: If Intuit isn't going to force people to go from desktop to online, and they're gonna allow people to keep doing hosting, then I think they should provide it themselves to ensure security. That's just my take.
David Leary: Maybe this is that domino that pushes it that way ... If you [00:20:30] go back, we talked about it after Scaling New Heights, Right Networks ... They're basically locking down their system a little bit, they're going to make everybody use a web-based interface - all the apps - so you don't install apps to those machines. They're really locking down their environment even tighter, because, ultimately, it is like having hundreds and hundreds of Windows computers just sitting there with anybody doing anything they want to them. Of course, something's gonna accidentally- even on accident; even not purposely [00:21:00] attacked, somebody's gonna accidentally get something infected, so there's lots of risk to this. Should we talk about other news? 
Rachel Fisch: I was just gonna say, David, I'm looking forward to the article that will be in the show notes later, that talks about the demise of hosting, because I feel like if they are just now saying, "Hey, guys, if this continues, we might be in trouble ..." They're how many years too late? You're already in trouble! We already need to be moving on, to be going full cloud. I [00:21:30] think if anyone was smart right now, they would really take this hosting spin on a marketing trip, and say, "Hey, we'll like do all your migrations for free, and we'll get you over to the cloud, where it really is secure." Then again, today, I was just talking to a Facebook group owner who said that a bunch of his loyal followers were saying that they think the cloud is just a fad. I'm like, "What?!" Anyway, I guess there are still people who will continue to use these services, as long as they seem secure. So, [00:22:00] we'll see.
Blake Oliver: I'm okay with being a fad, as long as we're the snap bracelet of fads, because those things are awesome. My son has one, right? They don't go away. We'll be around for a while.
Rachel Fisch: Great, great. 
David Leary: The big problem is the marketing, which bugs me. It grays the cloud computing world-
Rachel Fisch: I agree.
Blake Oliver: Right, it confuses people.
Rachel Fisch: Yeah.
David Leary: You know, I'm doing my normal - not research about this. I was just getting regular articles, doing my normal weekly reading of articles, and news feeds, and stories for the show. I see this one with this headline. It says, "Six [00:22:30] Ways How Cloud Computing Improves Accounting Practices." I was like, hey, that could be a possible story for the show. I click on it; I start reading it; guess what it's about? 
Rachel Fisch: Hosting- 
David Leary: Hosted desktop QuickBooks- 
Blake Oliver: Oh, no ...
David Leary: That does not help anybody, because I think there's ... I've talked to ProAdvisors. I've talked to small business owners. There's people that think they use QuickBooks in the cloud, and there's even QuickBooks hosted, and they don't know, because the messaging is so wrong.
Rachel Fisch: Yeah. 
Blake Oliver: So wrong. 
David Leary: Maybe, if anything happens out of this, it's there's some marketing requirements and clarification of [00:23:00] like you can't say you are QuickBooks in the cloud. You have to say you are QuickBooks Desktop hosted, maybe, just to create clarity on this [cross talk] because it's not ... It's not that it's deceiving. I mean, it's marketing, right? That's a gray word. It drives me crazy, because they've been doing that for six years.
Rachel Fisch: Yeah, that's been ... Talking when the cloud was first coming out, and you'd see those bookkeepers going, "I've been in the cloud for 10 years." I'm like, "No, you're desktop-hosted. That's not cloud native. There's a huge difference."
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Blake Oliver: I don't wanna run out of time. As much as I love talking about that- 
Rachel Fisch: Right. Oh, right. We've got other things to talk about, yeah. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Rachel let's talk about AI and audits, because I am obsessed with AI. I love it. I did a webinar recently about AI for accountants, but I never talked about audit, really ... Well, only the high level. What is going on in that in that world?
Rachel Fisch: Sure. Well, I think that I think that AI is one of those [00:25:00] things, you know, along with chatbots, and blockchain, and cryptocurrency. Anyway, there's a lot of buzzwords that happen when you're talking about technology in accounting and in accounting firms. It just seems like AI is getting a little bit more traction in certain applications than things like blockchain and stuff like that. I know you've mentioned the Deloitte Controllership surveys, where it's like nobody is doing anything with [00:25:30] blockchain; but who is doing something with what, right? What I've seen about AI is that ... This came up in a previous podcast, when you guys were talking about MindBridge. is the website, based out of Ottawa, here in Canada.
Blake Oliver: We were talking about they raised a bunch of money, right? Was that the story?
Rachel Fisch: Yes. That's what got it to hit your headlines there-
Blake Oliver: You know them because they're in- sorry, you said Ottawa? I apologize.
Rachel Fisch: Ottawa, yeah. No, they're in Ottawa, in Canada. Of course, every [00:26:00] Canadian knows every other Canadian, so I know those guys. They happen to be Sage partners of ours. We run in the same circles. We've got a lot of the same partnerships. They're a really great team over there. They're really real pleasure to work with. You and I just kind of got chatting about what does this look like? I think one of the interesting things about AI and audit is that everybody can understand what an audit is. When you talk about how to integrate AI with accounting services, of course, [00:26:30] we've seen how successful or not successful that is in some areas.
Blake Oliver: Yes. 
Rachel Fisch: But when it comes to audit, it is literally eyes on paper, reading GL reports and aligning things for hours, and weeks, and months at a time. This is the work of auditors. To me, this is such a natural case study to introduce technology, like with AI. MindBridge has created an AI auditor tool and that's all it does. It reads data, and it highlights [00:27:00] risk. Easy peasy, that's all it does.
Blake Oliver: When you say data, is this my GL? I share this into MindBridge? 
Rachel Fisch: Yeah. It has direct integrations, as well as flat file uploads. So, for example, I think it was Robin Grosset, who narrated a five minute AI Auditor overview on the website. It's actually done from an Excel file ripped from Sage 50, but it also has direct integration. So, for example, Intacct, you could connect MindBridge with [00:27:30] Intacct, a direct integration, and it could automatically pull and feed the information that you want. Essentially, what it is, is 100-percent data sample, where it simply categorizes by risk. It's got your high risk, your medium risk, your low risk. Of course, there are things like settings and configurations that come into play here. To me, this tool, used in this way, is the most clear example of the benefit of [00:28:00] AI in an accounting application, when it comes to audit. 
Blake Oliver: We're getting rid of sampling. Instead of sampling, we are auditing, literally, 100 percent of the GL. 
Rachel Fisch: Exactly, yeah- 
Blake Oliver: So, why isn't everybody using this right now?
Rachel Fisch: Right! Here's the thing. I've been kind of on a mission to find this out. First of all, MindBridge is having some incredible successes. They have some amazing partnerships. They're going into universities. They're doing all of the right things to get the word out. They've got amazing [00:28:30] content, and marketing teams. They've been doing a phenomenal job.
Then, if that's the case, why do so many accounting firms either not know what it is, or are not implementing it in their firms? I came down to three challenges. First, one of the reasons that I've been told is that audit regulation and standards currently do not allow for non-human auditors. Now, here's the challenge with that piece is that I have yet to actually find audit standards and regulations that indicate that it needs a certain number [00:29:00] of human signatures, or a certain number ... I'm not a CPA myself. I don't [cross talk] 
Blake Oliver: This is what the resistance is.
Rachel Fisch: Yes. This is what the resistance is saying? What I don't know is if those are valid. So, if there happen to be any CPAs listening to this ... I'm guessing that this is something that is going to vary by state society, or by country that you're certified in, but to see what exactly is it about the audit regulation that may [00:29:30] limit technology in this. Now, the challenge with that also is that, in many cases, where standards and regulations aren't keeping up to snuff, sometimes a groundswell of momentum is enough to start changing some of those standards and regulations, as well. That's the first one.
The second one is that too many firms think that larger sample size actually equals more problems, so they want to keep the audits limited to smaller sample sizes. This I've seen, as well, is that why do we want to sample 100 percent of the data, if [00:30:00] we're just gonna find more problems, and then we're just gonna have to fix the problems, or then it's just creating more problems for everybody? 
Blake Oliver: This just this just blows my mind [cross talk] 
Rachel Fisch: Just keep in mind, these are- multiple people have told me this.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, no, I completely believe it. It's exactly the opposite of what an auditor is supposed to think and do [cross talk] the ideal situation ... Yeah, please, go ahead. I can't ... 
Rachel Fisch: Right, yes. My thing is, if I'm only sampling, what [00:30:30] am I missing? Right?
Blake Oliver: Right, yeah. 
Rachel Fisch: If I don't do 100-percent data, I'm gonna not select from my sample those exact things that- 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and this is exactly the problem with- the big problem with audit, everywhere, seems to be-
Rachel Fisch: Generally, yeah. 
Blake Oliver: -in general is that auditors are selected and paid by their clients.
Rachel Fisch: Yes.
Blake Oliver: The clients don't want the auditors to find problems, and so the auditors don't want to find problems either, right? 
Rachel Fisch: Sure. 
Blake Oliver: It just creates more work for the auditors, and it makes the clients unhappy. The goal of a [00:31:00] really crappy auditor, or at least an auditor who doesn't care about the quality of the audit, is to do the least amount of work to pass muster and minimize the amount of stuff you find [cross talk] attitude ... I understand why that attitude exists, but it just points out the massive problem with the incentives. I hate it.
Rachel Fisch: I totally agree. That actually leads to the third challenge, Blake. It's almost like we've talked about this before ... Firms, they don't [00:31:30] know how to charge for automation, right? 
Blake Oliver: Right, right, yeah. 
Rachel Fisch: How do I now deal with the internal billing structure that goes with doing a job in six hours, instead of three weeks? They were talking about a 20 to 900 times more likely to be in ... Sorry, let me get that quote right. "MindBridge Ai customers have shown that errors are 20 to 900 times more likely to be uncovered with our AI testing components contributing to the analysis ..." The time savings is [00:32:00] like I can do in one hour what would take me five hours, or the one example that I had, also, was six hours instead of three weeks of doing a manual audit. Why do you not want to get this work done faster or better?
Blake Oliver: I'm sorry, say that time savings again? 
Rachel Fisch: Get done in six ... One person in six hours, what had previously taken two people three weeks, three full weeks, to do-.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I believe it. 
Rachel Fisch: -but the challenge is that an accounting firm knows how [00:32:30] to charge for two people for three weeks, right?
Blake Oliver: Right. Yeah, they don't know how to ... 
Rachel Fisch: Right. Why would ... They have zero motivation to charge for one person for six hours ... I'm gonna include in the show notes, there's a Michael Izza interview from ICAAW talking about the ... I don't know how to pronounce it, whether it's Carrion or Carillion, you know, the big [cross talk] 
Blake Oliver: I say Carillion, but I have no idea.
Rachel Fisch: I believe it was PWC that was auditing that one, but they've [00:33:00] had major lawsuits between PWC and KPMG, specifically in the audit department, for doing a really crappy job. With this kind of technology out there, there absolutely is zero use or cause for it anymore.
Blake Oliver: This is amazing, Rachel. Thank you so much for coming on and explaining that. I just wanna say out there, to anyone, I changed my mind, Rachel, as a result of this. I used to think that client accounting services was the biggest opportunity [00:33:30] for accounting firms, right now, like big ones.
Rachel Fisch: I actually [cross talk] audit. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I think, after listening to you, its audit. I just wanna put it out there. If you're in the Top 100 firm and you're looking for somebody to fix your- to restructure your audit department, to use AI technology, and get you on fixed-fee billing, you can come and pay me a million dollars, and I'll do it for you, because it's so easy. It's so easy [cross talk] open invitation, right? 
Rachel Fisch: Yeah. 
Blake Oliver: The realization ... It would be amazing. You'd basically [00:34:00] double your profits, or triple, or quadruple.
Rachel Fisch: Yeah. I'm just gonna end with my favorite quote from John Colthart. I'm just gonna call him GM of MindBridge, because he wears a couple of hats, but he says, "AI will not replace auditors, but auditors that use AI will replace auditors that don't," which I think is so true. 
Blake Oliver: Amazing. Well, we've got two amazing quotes in this episode [cross talk] 
David Leary: Just to break it to both of you, this is not a mindset of just auditors and accounting [00:34:30] firms.
Rachel Fisch: No. 
David Leary: This is a lot of managers, maybe, is the way to think about this. Back in my QA days, there's ... It's kinda like audit. You're running a bunch of tests-
Blake Oliver: Quality assurance. 
David Leary: Quality assurance. You're running a bunch of tests. The QA person managers love the most is the QA person that gets done first. "Hey, I ran all my tests, and I found no bugs." Because, if you find a bug, it's gotta be tracked. You have to have somebody make a decision. You have to have an engineer look at it. You have to have an engineer fix [00:35:00] it. You have to maybe change documentation. It's very expensive, when you find a bug. But, to be honest, probably it's much cheaper to find the bug in the development cycle than to have a customer find the bug, and then fix it after the fact. It's the same mindset. People would much rather have five QA people come back and say, "We're done with our testing. We found no bugs," because it looks better reports. It's just easier.
Blake Oliver: It's all about setting up the right incentives. So, let's try to get a few more stories in before we gotta go. We don't have a lot of time. I've got [00:35:30] a story here about where should we be looking for top accounting talent.
Rachel Fisch: Sure. 
Blake Oliver: You guys know that I like the Hinge Research Institute. Lee Frederiksen, over there, has a post on Accounting Today, exactly on that topic. They did some research. Tell me you think about this. A recent study conducted by the Hinge Research Institute revealed that most accounting firms still defer to traditional approaches for attracting prospects, meaning they're using job ads, fairs, topping the list, right? Unfortunately, the data says [00:36:00] that's not where top prospects are looking for their next career move. The number-one way that that top talent wants to get recruited is on LinkedIn. That's where they're going to find and research possible new employers. That's 86 percent of job seekers; but only 66 percent of firms are actively using LinkedIn for job candidates - a 20-percentage-point gap. That's the takeaway - if you want to recruit and retain top talent, you've gotta get away from this old job [00:36:30] fairs, and ads, and you've got to be on online. Gotta be on LinkedIn- 
Rachel Fisch: Well, it's the definition of insanity, right? When I go and I talk to all the firms that I do - and I talked to hundreds and thousands in a year - they are very clear about ... Recruiting is one of their top challenges, retention, and retraining. Those three things are not technological issues or technology issues, those are people issues. The [00:37:00] challenge is that they're not changing anything about how the firm is structured to actually change that. In this case, it's, "We're gonna keep doing the same things. We know things are changing. We know we want different things out of our employees now, but we're gonna keep doing the same thing and hope for different candidates." It's all the same pipeline at this point. You've gotta start changing the pipeline.
Blake Oliver: That's great. Well, what else is new in the world, David?
David Leary: I got two quick IRS-related stories-
Blake Oliver: Let's hear it. [00:37:30]
David Leary: -for two kind of related things - Crypto and cash.
Blake Oliver: Okay. 
David Leary: This week, the IRS is now sending out letters. They've sent out what it calls are "educational letters" to taxpayers that it has identified for folks that have not reported their virtual currency transactions or are reporting them incorrectly.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, educational letters is just code for threats, right? I saw some of these letters. They're basically saying, like, "Report your crypto profits or you are screwed," right? 
David Leary: Well, they're [00:38:00] intended to help taxpayers understand their tax filing obligations for cryptocurrency.
Blake Oliver: Okay, yeah. 
David Leary: The big one is that 10,000 letters are gonna go out by the end of August. Chances are, if you're in tax, you're probably gonna come across something-
Blake Oliver: Well, I'm glad it's 10,000, because that means I probably am not getting caught up in this, since, way more than that ... Way more people than that are transacting in cryptocurrency.
David Leary: Then, on the other story, the CEO of a pot company in Colorado, John Lord, [00:38:30] went to the bank with $3 million in physical cash to make a deposit- I'm sorry, to a local IRS office to pay his federal taxes.
Blake Oliver: I wish I had been working at that office that day. How cool would that be?
David Leary: He recently testified ... There's a committee looking into- figuring out how to deal with banking regulations, because a lot of people don't want to touch this money, because they're afraid the DEA's gonna come in; banks don't wanna touch this. He [00:39:00] testified there that he once rented a bank, a former bank, just so he could use the vault to store all his cash.
Blake Oliver: That's amazing.
David Leary: These are legit guys running around with that much cash.
Blake Oliver: Hey, Rachel, cannabis is legal in Canada-
Rachel Fisch: Yes. 
Blake Oliver: Do you guys ... You don't have a problem with banking, with it? It's not like here, right? 
Rachel Fisch: No, we will take your money.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Wow. 
Rachel Fisch: Actually, we ... Yeah, no, I think the cannabis industry has been interesting for lots of different, and other subsequent [00:39:30] industries, or related industries.
Blake Oliver: Well, you know, here in the US, we still like to use paper checks, and for certain things, we like to use physical paper money.
Rachel Fisch: Yes.
Blake Oliver: That's how we roll. No pun intended [cross talk]
David Leary: -how much money is in that industry. Kind of a preview, last week, at the Accounting and Finance Show in L.A., we did interview with somebody- an accountant; him and his son are- 
Blake Oliver: Bruce Anderson, and son, Thomas Anderson.
David Leary: -who a team up, and they [00:40:00] take on cannabis clients. It was a very good interview, and it ties into this.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, we'll be releasing that in the next few weeks. I got a story here that I've been hoarding that I haven't had a chance to talk about, but I feel like we should, because I keep thinking back onto it. Remember the Expensify 2 Chainz Super Bowl ad?
Rachel Fisch: Yeah, I remember that [cross talk] 
Blake Oliver: Expensify, man ... They like to blow their entire marketing budget in one thing every year. If it's an invite-only conference in [00:40:30] Bora Bora, or if it is a music video with 2 Chainz, and Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation ... Well, I'm really curious to know how that paid off for them, like if it paid off, or if [cross talk]
Rachel Fisch: The actual ROI-
Blake Oliver: Like if it paid off. Yeah. Because like, you know, is it worth spending? I don't know how much they spent, but I'm gonna guess, like, say $5 million bucks to do that whole thing. Well, they did win seven awards at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity for their music video. Among the awards were [00:41:00] the top prize, the Gold Lion in the categories of Production of Exclusive Artist Content and Partnership with a Brand or Cause and Use of Original Music, so congratulations.
David Leary: They probably thought it was a special effect. You can take a photo of a receipt, and put it into an accounting system? This must be special effects.
Rachel Fisch: What? This is magic. 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, amazing.
Rachel Fisch: I'm sure it's just a fad, right? All those cloud … It's just a fad.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, exactly.
David Leary: How trendy is that?
Blake Oliver: What else? I got lots more stories, but I don't want to monopolize [crosstalk]
Rachel Fisch: You might have to cut this in, [00:41:30] Blake. It took me a little while to find, David. It's about the IRS thing. So, there's this post going around social media right now about the IRS announcement. It says, "Confusing: Doing your taxes. Confusinger: Understanding cryptocurrencies. Confusingest: Doing your taxes when you own cryptocurrencies. The IRS is sympathetic, but Uncle Sam waits for no one," and then it goes on with the announcement of the rest of the post, so I thought that was pretty entertaining.
Blake Oliver: That's clever. Any time you can attach a meme to an IRS announcement, by all means, right? It should be done.
Rachel Fisch: Right? Yeah. [00:42:00]
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Of course, for those who are not familiar with the problems of taxation and cryptocurrency, the big issue is that the IRS treats it as an asset, so every single transaction, you have to compute gains and losses, and it just makes-
Rachel Fisch: And not a currency, yeah.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Of course, valuing cryptocurrency is difficult because there is no NASDAQ for crypto. There is no market maker, single market maker, so how do you choose what numbers to use? There's an [00:42:30] entire software world now, actually, just around importing your crypto transactions and calculating all those gains and losses.
David Leary: I met an app last week, and I cannot remember the name of it, but essentially you connect all 5,000 different possible crypto wallets that are out there, and they'll track all your ... It's almost like online bank feeds for your crypto transactions. So, they pull it all together, and they let you know your gains and losses, and then do export files out for tax software.
Blake Oliver: Thank God for that, right? Otherwise, it would be really, it would be Excel nightmare. Oh, speaking of Excel, and we [00:43:00] talked about malware earlier, Microsoft Excel has a feature that can be abused for malware distribution.
David Leary: Oh, no.
Blake Oliver: If you have Power Query enabled in Microsoft Excel, which comes turned on by default, apparently hackers can abuse Power Query, which has this feature where it goes out to other servers and pulls in data from the internet – kind of an open backdoor. If you open up the wrong Excel file, and you have Power Query turned on, it can [00:43:30] be used to run malicious code on your system with minimal interaction. So, just a warning ... Microsoft has decided not to patch it, because that is actually an intended feature of Power Query, so just do not open up an Excel file from somebody you don't know.
Rachel Fisch: Wow.
David Leary: Got it.
Blake Oliver: That's all you can do.
Rachel Fisch: So, the future of accounting is not Excel? I just wanted to be clear.
Blake Oliver: Well, you know, I mean, maybe ... I don't know. We'll let our listeners decide [cross talk]
David Leary: Especially if it's an attachment. Don't use attachments with Excel. I have some stories on [00:44:00] small business lending. Remember, we've been talking about this, and we've been wondering how viable some these companies are [inaudible] direction?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: There's definitely a lot of changes happening in that space as we speak. The first story is “SMB lender OnDeck is actively pursuing a bank charter,” because they want to offer a wider range of products and find cost efficiencies. But, really, if you read deeper in the article, effective August 3rd, JP [00:44:30] Morgan Chase no longer intends to originate new small business loans through them, through OnDeck's platform.
Blake Oliver: Really? I wonder why that is [cross talk] 
David Leary: They are looking to partner with others. One thing that I initially thought was … Because QuickBooks, QuickBooks Capital, and Intuit is very deeply involved with Chase. Is that gonna be an announcement we see soon as a deeper partnership with QuickBooks Capital?
The one thing that was in the article that I thought was really interesting was the stats. Online lenders approved 57 [00:45:00] percent of all small business loan applications in June. 50 percent were approved at small banks, and 27 percent at big banks. It's very obvious that this model of these app-first models that have access to accounting data are giving out the most loans.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, and probably not the highest quality loans, and that's ... I'm just gonna say why else would Chase be getting out of it? Maybe it had some bad results.
David Leary: So, just another loan player, Lendio, who's also in this space, they've taken it [00:45:30] one more step further. They actually completely acquired an accounting app. They acquired an accounting app, Billy, rebranded it as a new product called Sunrise, and they're giving away for free. So, you use this app to do all your cloud accounting, and they can target loans to you. What’s interesting, though, buried in their article is … I'm gonna read the quote here, okay, and you tell me what this sounds like, "When you sign up for a paid version, Sunrise will assign a bookkeeper within 48 hours, and moving forward, they'll reconcile [00:46:00] your books each month."
Blake Oliver: Wait, what?
David Leary: All right, I'll read this again. Tell me what this sounds like. "When you sign up for a paid version, Sunrise," which is the accounting app, "will assign a bookkeeper within 48 hours, and moving forward, they will reconcile your books each month."
Blake Oliver: Yeah, that sounds very familiar.
David Leary: It's another QuickBooks Live play.
Blake Oliver: Another one. 
David Leary: Everybody is doing it now. Now, this is a small business lender that's doing your QuickBooks Live play.
Blake Oliver: Wow, that's a new one. I had not … Yeah … 
Rachel Fisch: I mean, we're continuing [00:46:30] to see this convergence of bank and/or payments plus GL, and then plus a service piece, right? H&R Block and Wave, right, books to tax, plus they've got service providers. What else was it? Oh, RBC in Canada- the Royal Bank of Canada acquired WayPay, which is a payments provider, and then they're also working with small business, and they've got some other things going on as well. I think we're just going to continue [00:47:00] to see these multiple convergences of bank and payments, GL, and then some level of service, absolutely.
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: I think in the past, Blake, you, and I have talked about this; this is kind of the Wild West, right?
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
David Leary: A lot of these companies are based out of Utah because there's no limits on usury that you can charge. Well, there is news now. California has proposed lending rules, and they're getting more support for this. The Department of Business Oversight, they've worked with ... I'm taking this as a coalition, [00:47:30] the Responsible Business Lending Coalition. They are proposing legislation and regulation to control truth-in-lending protections for small business owners. 
I'll just read the quote from them, "The proposed regulations recognize that small business financing has changed as many small businesses now commonly pay effective APRs of higher than 50 percent and, sometimes, as high as 350 percent without these rates ever being disclosed again to them." That's [00:48:00] one thing I've always felt about all these alternative lending situations. It's very easy, "Click here! Get $10,000!" Then you're kind of paying it back. They're gray. It's half invoice refactoring, it's half not; it's very confusing, and people don't know the rates they're paying.
Blake Oliver: I'm in favor of regulations to require these lenders to disclose the APR on any of these transactions, but I am not supportive of restricting businesses from taking these loans if they want to, because some may have no other option, and if they think it's a good idea, then fine, right? They're [00:48:30] business owners. I think, fundamentally, it's different than usury laws around payday loans because some of ... That's an education problem, right? I don't know ... I'm not a fan. I think there should be disclosure, but not necessarily restricting the amount that can be charged.
David Leary: I think we're gonna see more about this, as well, because I think, again … We've talked about her before, Elizabeth Warren; this is another thing that could show up and become a political issue for the election - small business loans.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah. Elizabeth [00:49:00] Warren loves to-
David Leary: She wants to be on the podcast [crosstalk] I think ... She wants to be on our podcast.
Blake Oliver: I would love to have Elizabeth Warren on the podcast to ask her about cloud accounting and what the government should be doing to regulate cloud accounting.
David Leary: I have another, some ... Kind of related to payments that's gonna blow your mind.
Blake Oliver: Okay.
David Leary: All right. The headline is “MasterCard: Tackling AP Automation's Last Mile.” This article had two amazing stats. They're talking a little bit more enterprise, bigger companies, Fortune 500, right? [00:49:30] 59 percent of firms have yet to tackle payments automation.
Blake Oliver: Oh, doesn't surprise me [cross talk] Sad stat, but what's the other one?
David Leary: This is the better one. Paper checks make up 51 percent of corporate payments.
Rachel Fisch: Wow.
Blake Oliver: Oh, boy. Yeah, and imagine being that Canadian company that's getting all those checks from U.S. customers, you're like, "God! Ahhh!"
Rachel Fisch: "No more, please, no more!" 
Blake Oliver: Right, no more.
Rachel Fisch: To me, this is one of the glaringly ways in which the U.S. is behind, pretty much, [00:50:00] everywhere else, right? If you talk to an Australian, or if you talk to somebody from the U.K, or from Europe, they're like, "We did away with checks, like, how many years ago?" Canadians, we still use them, but they are certainly an exception. They are not … It's how do I pay one out of my hundred people who I'm doing a payroll run for that one person who still wants a check? It's so prevalent in the U.S. that I don't know what's gonna start bending or tipping that.
Blake Oliver: Well, [00:50:30] I think it's going to be the next recession because ... I love these Metric of the Month stats that they have on that I share from the APQC Benchmarking surveys. One that keeps coming that I keep using in presentations I give is that the least efficient corporate finance departments have four times more employees than the most efficient ones. If you're efficient, you can have 25 percent of the staff of an inefficient department, and that is mostly because of people with paper checks. It’s literally- that's probably a lot of it. [00:51:00]
Rachel Fisch: Well, I mean, all the stats - the amount that it costs, the amount of time that it costs to process a check, the amount of money it costs to process a check - all of the data is pointing that ... I don't know if it maybe has to do with the fact that there are 7,000 banks in [Canada] as opposed to the five main ones in Canada and the four main ones in Australia, but I certainly think that probably has something to do with it, just the ability to move money, right?
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Any other stories before we go?
David Leary: I think Gusto raised another $200 million. They are going to expand the East coast, and I think the interesting one is they plan on building out something [00:51:30] called still Gusto Flexible Pay that's for employees. I know you mentioned payday loans before. It's not a payday loan, but there's another company that also does this, Earnin.
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah, yeah.
David Leary: As soon as you clock out at the end of the day, they use your time data; they know you're gonna get paid for eight hours. You could actually just get that money early and deposit it in your bank account.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, they're floating the cash to the employees, but the employer can still keep their every two week pay schedule.
David Leary: Yeah. This’ll be the death to payday loan places, for sure.
Blake Oliver: I hope so.
David Leary: You won't [00:52:00] need one. You'll just, "Hey, I had to put braces on my kid."
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Studies show that if your employees get paid every day, using this, they're more productive, because they see the fruit of their labor right away.
David Leary: That's it for me.
Blake Oliver: All right. Well, hey, Rachel, if people want to connect with you online, where's the best place for them to do that?
Rachel Fisch: Best place is Twitter @FischBooks. F-I-S-C-H-B-O-O-K-S.
Blake Oliver: And how about you, David?
David Leary: @DavidLeary.
Blake Oliver: And I am @BlakeTOliver. And, if you wanna do [00:52:30] us a favor, leave us a review on iTunes or on your podcast player of choice. We will read it on the air. And David, I forgot, did we miss any this week? I think we didn't get any this week, right?
David Leary: No reviews this week, but you know what would be just as good as a review? 
Blake Oliver: What's that?
David Leary: Is when you're at dinner with one of your accountant friends or bookkeeping friends, pull out their phone and subscribe them to The Cloud Accounting podcast.
Blake Oliver: You tried to do this at some conferences recently, David, and people did [00:53:00] not want to give you their phones.
David Leary: No, nobody wanted to let me touch their phone and do that. But hey, you know, if it’s a friend, you can do that [cross talk]
Rachel Fisch: I will say I got an email from a partner at a firm that I've been working with for a while now, and he said, "So, I'm listening to this Cloud Accounting podcast," and I'm like, "Oh, my gosh! I told you to listen to that." And he goes, "I'm listening to this podcast, and they've said your name a couple of times," and he goes, "It sounds so cool," so people are listening even if they're not reviewing.
David Leary: Yes. Somebody at the conference in L.A. came up to me like … It's [00:53:30] always good when somebody you absolutely never met before, you don't know, and they're like, "I listen to the podcast. It's great." 
Blake Oliver: That's so great.
David Leary: It's always really good that people really listen to us. That's great.
Blake Oliver: Yes, thank you to all our listeners for helping us get to this point. We are almost at 100 episodes. This is, I think, 99. I'm not sure because the publishing order may change, but we're very close, if we haven't already hit it. Thank you everyone who has helped us get this far. It's crazy to think where we've come in really just about [00:54:00] a year and, hopefully, we'll get more cloud accountants into the podcast world and beyond in the years to come.
Rachel Fisch: For sure. Awesome [inaudible].
Blake Oliver: Thanks, Rachel. Good to talk to you. Bye, David.
David Leary: Bye, everybody. Thanks for joining.
Rachel Fisch: Yeah, you too. Bye.

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