Ransomware attacks continue!

A dentist (and former Survivor contestant) made the evening news in Orlando after his QuickBooks file was targeted by hackers. Plus: Blake and David get political, updates on TurboTax and QuickBooks Live, LinkedIn's new features that should help accountants get more clients, a new instant payments platform planned by the Federal Reserve, why accounting firms just aren't that into instant messaging, how AI and automation will affect jobs, and much more.

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Transcript

Blake Oliver: Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver-
 
David Leary: And I'm David Leary.
 
Blake Oliver: So, David, did you catch the debates?
 
David Leary: I did watch the debates.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah?
 
David Leary: It's must-see TV. That's like five hours of ... Remember when WWF would put 20 people in a cage match?
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: It's like that.
 
Blake Oliver: That's actually a very good analogy. My brother is in town from New York, visiting for a week, and he loves debates and [00:00:30] politics. He's a public school teacher, and he's also a Democrat and very liberal. I like to think of myself as more in the moderate spectrum. I'm a registered Republican in California, so whatever that means ... 
 
David Leary: A Democrat everywhere else?
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, exactly. I'm like a Bush I Republican, which is kind of weird thing to be, because I'm not a Trump guy. So, it's been interesting watching the debates. I'm a big Andrew Yang fan. We've talked about him on the [00:01:00] podcast before- 
 
David Leary: -because he's all about the bots are gonna take our jobs; we need universal basic income. Yeah, he's talked about a lot of things we talk about.
 
Blake Oliver: Yes, exactly. He's the only one talking about automation in any meaningful way, like the humongous societal threat that automation poses. I've actually got a story along those lines that I will not forget to bring up, because it does tie back to the debate with Andrew Yang.
 
David Leary: I think he was the only one that brought up the point that this is like a reality TV show and look what happened last time - we got a reality [00:01:30] TV star as your president. I think that was one of his lines in the debate, which I thought was an interesting observation. It's [cross talk] 
 
Blake Oliver: He doesn't get a lot of time. You can tell the moderators are like, "All right, enough from you, Yang. We know you're a one-issue candidate, so we're gonna get back to the real debate."  Anyway, I hope he keeps going as long as he can.
 
David Leary: Hey, I did my part. I went in and I donated $5 to six or seven of the candidates, because they have to hit that threshold to stay in the debate-
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
 
David Leary: -so I did my part and donated to about six or seven candidates [00:02:00] to keep them in the debate. It's entertaining. They should be on every week. I'd tune in.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, no ... Very good. Please, let's keep this going; everybody, please, donate all those one-percent candidates so they can get ... What is it they have to get to now, like two percent or ...? They have to get two percent polling, in order to continue?
 
David Leary: And 130,000 individual donations or something, yeah. 
 
Blake Oliver: It's one of the- either one? Got it [cross talk] We'll talk a little bit about automation. We also, of course, have to talk about the ongoing malware security, QuickBooks hacking thing that's going on.
 
David Leary: There's more malware. [00:02:30] I got some QuickBooks Live news-
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, QuickBooks Live. 
 
David Leary: A little bit of news about the payments, and that's about it. I don't have a ton of articles this week, but they're ... I'm nicely prepared, though. What about you?
 
Blake Oliver: I got a few more small stories like Google Sheets has new features. Here's a survey about how many firms are using instant messaging with their clients; how much businesses are spending, as a percentage of revenue, to manage taxes. I think there's a real interesting value-pricing [00:03:00] lesson there, potentially. What else? Oh, how workers feel about robots, and their jobs, and automation, in general. Shall we get to it with the security updates?
 
David Leary: We got a review, though, so, do you wanna read that? 
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah, let's do that first.
 
David Leary: Five stars.
 
Blake Oliver: This is from Mel Comer, CPA, and outsourced CFO. Mel said, "David and Blake do a fantastic job keeping the cloud accounting world up to date on important topics. Always interesting, sometimes [00:03:30] controversial, and definitely enjoyable. Suggestions - would love to hear more about blockchain, and cryptocurrency stories and how accountants are dealing with the challenges of having clients in that space. For example - show 100, they mentioned emerging companies who track cryptocurrency transactions for clients. Bitwave is one of those, and we'd love to hear you interview Pat White, the founder. This is a huge need for our clients. Thanks, guys." Awesome.
 
David Leary: Thanks for the review and suggestions.
 
Blake Oliver: You know ever app, right? So, I'm gonna leave it to you to track down Pat [00:04:00] from Bitwave.
 
David Leary: All right, I'll track down ... Actually, I think that might have been the company I mentioned that I met at The Accounting Show in LA.
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, cool. 
 
David Leary: We can track that down, if there's more news that makes sense. The one challenge, I think, with bitcoin and cryptocurrency - they're in every news, and every app talks about AI or blockchain, and crypto. What's bubbling into the news is what bubbles into the news, but I could definitely ... Yeah, we'll check it out [cross talk] Bitwave could [00:04:30] be interesting, and I'll research a little bit on Pat White, the founder.
 
Blake Oliver: All right, let's talk about QuickBooks hacking.
 
David Leary: Yeah. It was nice, we were talking about how great TV is, in the news ... Well, so we know a story is getting a little bit mainstream when Action News 6 Orlando is covering a QuickBooks ransomware attack story.
 
Blake Oliver: When you sent me this link, I thought it was just originally an article on their website, and it was written by one of their interns. I'm like, "Oh, okay, whatever ..." but then, I realized [00:05:00] they had embedded the video from the story up top. This actually was evening news in Orlando.
 
David Leary: The reporter went there. He did the ... With the camera, with the microphone, in front of the business; then he's inside the business, interviewing the business owner. We always talk about this. There's this fine line of we're ... I'm in the closet talking to Blake about issues related to our industry, but I feel like when we're talking about stuff, it's because everybody's talking about it, and [00:05:30] this is proof.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: What was interesting about this attack - this has nothing to do with the iNSYNQ attack, other than the fact that it's ransomware.
 
Blake Oliver: Right, ransomware and there's QuickBooks involved.
 
David Leary: There's QuickBooks involved. What was kind of interesting about this attack ...There's the TV news broadcast, but then there's also an article from healthcareinfosecurity.com. (We'll put both links in the show notes) A couple things were interesting about this. It's a dental office, a dental practice. From [00:06:00] what they can tell, the attackers did not do anything with patient records, medical records, anything. They only targeted the QuickBooks Desktop data file, encrypted it with ransomware, and asked for a $10,000 ransom, and if they didn't pay it within 48 hours, it was gonna go up to $20,000.
 
Blake Oliver: The dentist, apparently, he didn't have backups for about five months.
 
David Leary: That's correct. 
 
Blake Oliver: He had to make this choice. He said, "Okay, do I pay the $10,000 ransom [or $20,000 if he waits too long] or [00:06:30] do I simply scrap it and have my accountant redo five months of accounting?" Immediately after reading this, I said, oh, it's gonna be cheaper to- almost guaranteed to be cheaper to just recreate the five months of accounting. That's what he's doing. What was really interesting about this, to me, is that there's a mention in the article - not a whole lot of detail - but a mention that hackers are purchasing kits to specifically target QuickBooks Desktop files on computers and, like you said, only encrypt those and hold [00:07:00] those ransom.
 
David Leary: Yeah, they're going after that data file, because they know it's a business-
 
Blake Oliver: And they know it's valuable.
 
David Leary: It's valuable, exactly. Because if somebody comes in and encrypts some pictures or something, you're like, "Okay, I lost those pictures forever ..." 
 
Blake Oliver: What if he didn't have backups at all? What if he had years of data in that QuickBooks file and hadn't made any backups or didn't know how to restore them? Then he'd really probably be forced to pay the ransom, because it's so hard to go back many, many years to recreate your [00:07:30] accounting information.
 
David Leary: It very specifically states he's gonna pay his accountant. Somebody on Twitter tagged on to this and made a comment that, "Hey, this is a new service their accounting firm can offer." If you think about it-
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: As long as you quote the price under $10,000, you're gonna get the business. 
 
Blake Oliver: We'll recreate your-
 
David Leary: "Oh, you need me to re-build your data file?" $8,000. 
 
Blake Oliver: Rebuild your data file, yeah. 
 
David Leary: This actually is going to help drive revenue for accounting firms, possibly, these malware attacks.
 
Blake Oliver: How this relates to what we were talking about last week is that, last [00:08:00] week, we were talking about the iNSYNQ ransomware attack and three other ransomware attacks that hit hosting ProAdvisors - these managed service ProAdvisors. This dentist- his name is, by the way, Carl Bilancione?
 
David Leary: Apparently, believe it or not, he was on Survivor once. He is a Survivor star - the TV show "Survivor."
 
Blake Oliver: I thought that was a weird coincidence, but then I thought there's like 20 years of "Survivor" and how many contestants do they have? So there's a probably good chance that you personally know somebody who was on "Survivor" at some point. Yeah, he was [00:08:30] on Survivor. Maybe he actually saw this as a PR opportunity, right? He calls up the news station and talks about getting hacked, and now, here he is getting free advertisement for his practice.
 
David Leary: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure he gets that piece of it. One other thing that was interesting is the Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma encouraged businesses to never pay the ransom. But then he went on to say that he's had nine reported incidents of this happening in his Florida county this year.
 
Blake Oliver: Nine incidents? Wow. That didn't get news coverage. [00:09:00]
 
David Leary: This is probably happening, and people probably think they're in a silo ... Also, I think, which is interesting about this, do you think, if you're a small business and this happens to you, it's a little embarrassing, possibly?
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah, right. Well, we know for a fact firms have been hacked, and these are accounting firms, and the partners paid the ransom and never told anyone, because they didn't want their clients to know. Like you said, this probably- if this happened nine times in that county alone, this is probably happening [00:09:30] every day, all over the country, multiple times. People are just not admitting it, or they're not advertising it. This guy saw an opportunity, so it became a news story, but it's probably a massive- it's a massive problem, and when it bubbles up like this to TV news, then you know that there's something going on.
 
David Leary: So, it'll be interesting to see ... I didn't see any other attacks out there, but if any of our listeners- if you've had- your small business owner or your client has been ransomwared, [00:10:00] we'd love to find out about it. I think it's ... The only way this is gonna get prevented is if people are aware that they're a target.
 
Blake Oliver: I posted this story- after you found it, David, I posted this on LinkedIn. Joy Lizotte said, on LinkedIn, that our local government, or their insurance provider just had to pay $400,000 because of a similar situation.
 
David Leary: I think I saw the City of Lodi, right there in your backyard in California, there ... Not your backyard, I guess. It's way north. But [00:10:30] apparently, they admitted that they were ransomwared a few months back - an entire city. This is not stopping. It's just, I think, for our industry, it's very obvious there is a target at QuickBooks data files.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
 
David Leary: Make sure making your backups, or switched full-blown to cloud, because this is happening.
 
Blake Oliver: And because this happened to a guy- this dentist, he wasn't using a hosting provider. He was just- he had a file on his local network. Now he did say that he had an IT firm that had secured it, but the hackers were able to get [00:11:00] through that, so the question is- 
 
David Leary: Well, he thinks- if you read one of the articles, he actually thinks it was another dentist in the office who was shopping for wine on a website in France that got him infected.
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, clicked a download or something?
 
David Leary: Yeah.
 
Blake Oliver: Well, so, users are the weakest link, right? The question is should he have been using a hosting provider, even though hosting ProAdvisors, themselves, are at risk? I don't know how you feel, David, but I still think he's better off using hosting. Well, he's better off going to online, QuickBooks Online, and not having to deal with this issue, but if he's gotta keep the [00:11:30] Desktop for whatever reason, then go to a hosting provider;  just make sure it's one that's at the top of the pack. I don't know what else to do.
 
David Leary: If you have reliable backup procedure ... You're making a backup on a daily basis, right? You're backing up your QuickBooks data, but then you're doing periodic backup, like every week, I make a backup, and I take that home, and I put in my safe at home or something. Then, every quarter, I take a backup, and I take that backup, and I store it at my accountant's office in their safe or something, to where- 
 
Blake Oliver: Every year, I make a backup and I bury it in my backyard.
 
David Leary: Something, right? As long as you have- you're [00:12:00] keeping all these backups-
 
Blake Oliver: Right. 
 
David Leary: If you get ransomwared, you're like, "Okay, screw you. I'll delete the file. I'll restore my new one. 
 
Blake Oliver: It is true. It doesn't matter, if you've got daily backups. I used to make hourly backups when I had a desktop file that I was managing, in my office manager days, and it saved me a few times from losing half a day of work. Backups ... Cool. 
 
David Leary: Anyway, that's gonna be the lesson here is to make more backups, and don't click stuff. The other thing that's talked about in both these articles is about thumb drives.
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, [00:12:30] yeah. Don't plug in thumb drives.
 
David Leary: And actually, I have to lock this down at my house, because my kids take thumb drives to school, then they bring 'em home. "Dad, can you print this?" I have to crack down on the thumb drives, I think, this year. 
 
Blake Oliver: They disabled our USB thumb-drive capability at work completely because of this. You cannot use a thumb drive. I got a story here about LinkedIn and how accountants can use LinkedIn better thanks to some new tools that are rolling out. This was in Accounting Today on July 23rd. [00:13:00] Michael Cohn covered this new, "Open for Business" marketplace that LinkedIn is creating. Basically, if you're any kind of professional, you can now list your availability, industry expertise, skills, and geographic location, and indicate that you are, "open for business," and ready to connect - turning LinkedIn into sort of a marketplace for professional services.
 
I don't have this available on my profile yet. I went in this morning to check and look. Apparently, it's rolling [00:13:30] out gradually, so you might wanna go on to your profile and look. It should be there pretty close at the top in this dotted ... There's a highlighted box, or it's got a dotted line around it. It will allow you, if you've been selected for this beta, to highlight your expertise. Then, I guess, theoretically, business owners can look for you, and find you, and hire you.
 
David Leary: Okay, so I gotta-
 
Blake Oliver: I don't know if they can hire you- 
 
David Leary: I have a firm. I've gotta make sure I maintain my Facebook [00:14:00] profile of my business hours there, and then my Google business profile, and my Yelp profile, and now I've got a LinkedIn profile for my business I've gotta maintain. All right. 
 
Blake Oliver: Mm-hmm, but I think the LinkedIn one is actually more helpful, because it's tied to your actual resume, and your social. If you're active on LinkedIn, you should definitely be using this. Could be a good lead-gen tool. 
 
David Leary: For all you app developers out there, there's ... Nobody wants to do this, so, if you can build one app, where I could just update my stuff in one spot, and you'll go populate this on all the services for me, people would pay for that, because nobody has time for this. [00:14:30] Because then you change your business hours, and "Oh, I gotta remember to go change that on my LinkedIn profile, too." Nobody has time for that. This is just another hassle, but we'll see how that goes. The thing is, any improvements to LinkedIn, I'm always welcome for, because I really have a lotta disdain for LinkedIn.
 
Blake Oliver: Got it. 
 
David Leary: You have to use it, though. You can't not be on it.
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, you can't not be on LinkedIn. Well, I think- I like LinkedIn. You're a little more critical than I am, but just for me, as a resume replacement, I [00:15:00] haven't had to print out an actual resume and give it to anyone for years now, because LinkedIn is my resume. Any company that I wanna work for will accept that, and I don't have to give them some Word document.
 
David Leary: Yeah, but it's the messaging, and writing a message, and doing posts. It's all flaky. It's all ... Aww ... Then the LinkedIn spam is the worst of all time [cross talk] so we can start on that. 
 
Blake Oliver: Right, well, that is unfortunate, yeah. 
 
David Leary: It's worse than any other- it's worse than the blind phone calls you get, the robo-calls. LinkedIn spam is worse than robo-calls.
 
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David Leary: I got some updates on QuickBooks Live. 
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, let's hear about it. Those videos are crazy.
 
David Leary: Well, before we jump in and go that far in QuickBooks Live, I actually saw an update to a post about TurboTax Live.
 
Blake Oliver: Okay ... 
 
David Leary: This article was originally published on October 12th, 2017 and was re-published on October 4th, 2018 and again on August 1st, 2019 with [00:17:00] updates. Basically, it's the hiring page to do TurboTax Live, which we've talked about before. It's very similar to QuickBooks Live. The difference on this one is they talk about ... I'll read this straightforward: "New this year is a tax associate role to assist credentialed agents in assisting the preparation of 1040s. In addition to earning extra money on an hourly basis, tax professionals can take advantage of the benefits of being [ready?] a W-2 Intuit employee, and get bonuses, 401(k) training, [00:17:30] and be part of the community." So, it's a part time job- or seasonal job, but you are truly a W-2 employee, and I think from what we've seen thus far on the QuickBooks Live side, it was more of a subcontractor situation, not W-2.
 
Blake Oliver: Right. Interesting. Most of the TurboTax Live people are contractors then, or are they W-2 employees? I thought they were part-time employees, but now I'm not clear on that [cross talk] from the fact that they're-  [00:18:00]
 
David Leary: That's why this sentence- it does say "New this year." So it's just joined by our theory of QuickBooks Live is following in the footsteps of TurboTax Live. It'll be interesting to ... Is there gonna be an evolution of QuickBooks Live, where some of these ProAdvisors that are doing QuickBooks Live could become W-2 employees? 
 
To continue on that QuickBooks Live now has its own landing page. Previously, if you are shopping for QuickBooks Online, you got to the pricing page. You could set some sliders, and you [00:18:30] could add on. You could add on QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping. Now they have a true landing page, so small businesses will ... Their entry point to the QuickBooks world is through a QuickBooks Live bookkeeper, and then into the rest- buying QuickBooks Online. They are offering a free 30-minute bookkeeping consult. On that page you can just click, sign up, and you can start your QuickBooks Live process for free.
 
Blake Oliver: We [00:19:00] should say that the videos that they have added on these landing pages are very well-produced and narrated by Danny DeVito.
 
David Leary: Yeah, I would argue this is like a Super-Bowl-level commercial for QuickBooks Live-
 
Blake Oliver: Should we summarize for the new listeners- because we even talked about this in a while, and we've got a bunch of new listeners ... Maybe we should summarize what QuickBooks Live is? 
 
David Leary: The shortest answer would be it's like Uber for bookkeeping.
 
Blake Oliver: Okay, so I am business owner. I need bookkeeping done, so I just open up [00:19:30] my phone-
 
David Leary: Your phone or your QuickBooks Online. You can do a video chat with a bookkeeper, and they'll help you through whatever problems you're having. It could be a reconciliation, et cetera; re-categorizing transactions. The way it's more like Uber is you're paying Intuit, you're going through Intuit, and just like Uber, every time I get an Uber, I get a different driver; I'll probably get a different bookkeeper. It's very similar to an Uber-style model for bookkeepers-
 
Blake Oliver: And I'm just looking scrolling down this page and looking at the pricing, because the pricing continuously changes here. Remember [00:20:00] when we started talking about this, it was $200 month?
 
David Leary: Yep. 
 
Blake Oliver: All these prices here, from Simple Start with Live Bookkeeping up to Advanced with Live Bookkeeping - they've got four tiers - it goes from $410, to $420, to $435, to $475, all in the $400 to $500 range. Interesting, it's such a small range. They really seem to have fixed the bookkeeping price of $400 dollars a month. It's really not changing. The only thing that changes is the embedded [00:20:30] price of the QuickBooks software.
 
David Leary: Exactly. It basically looks like, right now, it's for bookkeeping, no matter if you're a sole proprietor, or the size of your business ... It's $400 which is a pretty much across the board.
 
Blake Oliver: Yep, and the scope of services- what is the scope of services these days?
 
David Leary: If you watch the ad, this ad really, truly demos the service. My understanding is that this is a real small business owner and a real ProAdvisor that are both involved in this conversation. This [00:21:00] is the real-deal demo of the offering. What I like about this new commercial is, in comparison to ... You may have saw this, about three years ago, Intuit had a very pie-in-the-sky vision of the future of QuickBooks Online. It was like this Uber driver. He's driving his Tesla, and the Tesla has the big TV screen. His accountant pops up on the TV screen in the Tesla. He's talking about ordering flour for his bakery business that he also owns. It was a little too forward-thinking. [00:21:30]
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: This ad is very realistic, and there's screenshots, and it shows interactions. I think it's truly showing the service. It doesn't look like it- it doesn't have screen images simulated; little pieces of text that sometimes they put on ads. If you wanna see how it works, hit the show notes. The link to the YouTube video is in there.
 
Blake Oliver: It looks good.
 
David Leary: If you think about this, chances are this is gonna be a commercial, so bookkeeping ... Bookkeeping [00:22:00] is gonna be a commercial. Do you know any other bookkeeping firms that are gonna run a TV commercial during the Super Bowl, possibly? 
 
Blake Oliver: No.
 
David Leary: This is huge.
 
Blake Oliver: It's gonna be big.
 
David Leary: ... I think a lotta people- I think a lotta small businesses have this mindset of bookkeeping - "I'll just have secretary do it," right? 
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: In their brain, they've never comprehended like, "Oh, there's actual real people out there that just do bookkeeping?" This is gonna educate the market that there's these people called bookkeepers, and they can help you with your [00:22:30] QuickBooks.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Every firm that has enough resources to film ... If you have $10,000 for your marketing budget, you should film one of these videos. It's not gonna be as good; you're not gonna get Danny DeVito to narrate it, but you can do it.
 
David Leary: You could get Blake! You could get Blake! 
 
Blake Oliver: You could get me! We did this when I was at Armanino. Xero came out- they sent a film crew out, because I was a big Xero partner. They filmed an [00:23:00] interview with me and one of our clients and stitched it all together, very much like that, showing how we worked together using Xero and some other apps. It was really cool. Something like that, that shows just how the service actually works in a couple of minutes is really valuable, not only for the prospects, but also for the partners in the firm that are gonna be referring you work, because they need to understand how client-accounting services works. Everybody should be doing this.
 
David Leary: No argument- [00:23:30]
 
Blake Oliver: Shall we move on? 
 
David Leary: Yeah.
 
Blake Oliver: So, I got another stat from CPA Trendlines from their surveys. You wanna guess how many firms are utilizing a collaboration tool that includes instant messaging, David?
 
David Leary: How many internally, or with their clients?
 
Blake Oliver: That's a good question.
 
David Leary: I'm gonna say with their clients, 15 percent, and then maybe internally, 35 percent.
 
Blake Oliver: I think this is internally. The question is, "Does your [00:24:00] firm utilize a collaboration tool that includes instant messaging (IM)?"  Yes is 39 percent; no is 61 percent. Fewer than half of firms are utilizing IM, and I'm guessing the rest are doing email or something. If they answered yes, you might wanna know what tools they're using. 26 percent are using Microsoft Skype for Business, and three percent are using Cisco Jabber, and there's no other answers for any of the others, so it must be really, really tiny. I'm surprised Slack's not on there. It's kind of disappointing. [00:24:30] We're big Slack fans. 
 
David Leary: I think it'll be interesting, like we talked about a few weeks ago, how Microsoft's Teams is really chugging along nicely here. 
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah. 
 
David Leary: That survey, it'll be interesting a year from now to see where Microsoft Teams is, on that survey. I predict it'll be the number-one tool accounting firms are using to communicate within their teams, because they already are already paying for it. They own it. They just have to flip it on.
 
Blake Oliver: I wonder if maybe these results are distorted, because a lot of firms are very small, like one or two people. You wouldn't [00:25:00] need instant messaging internally for that; you could be using it for your clients. But, like you said, we're way ... That's way out, before most firms are doing that.
 
David Leary: Yeah.
 
Blake Oliver: Here's another app update - Google Sheets, the ugly stepchild of Microsoft Excel, but, you know, we really love it, being in the cloud. I learned how to use Google Sheets before I learned how to use Excel, believe it or not. They have added a few new- 
 
David Leary: What?!
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, I know. Sorry. I'm [00:25:30] in that generation, David, where I had Google Apps through my university for free, so that's what we ... We used Google Docs; we used Google Sheets to do everything, and it wasn't until I got into the business world that I learned how to use Excel.
 
David Leary: Did you ever use Lotus 1-2-3 at all?
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, no, no, that didn't ... That was not a thing.
 
David Leary: I'm gonna guess that you never used WordPerfect DOS either.
 
Blake Oliver: I think we used it in like elementary school for newsletters or something like that but yeah ... I'm a big Google Sheets fan, because when it's something [00:26:00] that you're used to from the beginning, it's very easy to use. I love the collaboration features. One of the things that's been missing is some of the more advanced Excel features that you just can't get, especially when it comes to building dashboards for clients or for any project you're working on.
 
Good news, they have recently released two things that will really help with that- actually, three features that will really help with that. One is Slicers. This allows you to set up a filter on a sheet that any [00:26:30] user can easily access without having to dig into the settings for the chart or a table. If you're filtering a pivot table, basically, all of the charts will update automatically. 
 
Then the other feature is Scorecard Charts. It allows you to key in on a few metrics and see, in a box, a really important number. Maybe, if it's an airline, like in this example here in the article, it's base fare price, and then passengers flown. You got those right up top, like a dashboard you see in one of these apps. Finally, they've got themes now. [00:27:00] Now you can give all your charts a consistent theme and color. Basically, if you don't wanna use a reporting tool to create dashboards for your clients, you could probably do a pretty good dashboard in Google Sheets these days. 
 
David Leary: Well, especially because there's a couple apps out there that you can connect ... I don't know on the Xero side, but you can connect to QuickBooks, and all your QuickBooks transactions go to a Google Sheet. So, you could do lots of creative stuff from that platform. 
 
Blake Oliver: There's a ton of ... Zapier integrates to Google Sheets. All [00:27:30] these automation tools integrate with Google Sheets, so if you can get it in there, in some sort of tab where it's updating automatically, you could update a dashboard live. In the end, it's gonna be more work maintaining than a reporting tool, but just for a one-off kind of client thing, it could be a great way to get started.
 
David Leary: I have another story.
 
Blake Oliver: Okay. 
 
David Leary: Remember we talked about it before, in the past ... I think it was my prediction of this year, if we go way back to the January episode - first one we did - this is the year of [00:28:00] instant payments.
 
Blake Oliver: Yep. 
 
David Leary: Instant payments, instant payments ... I think, even last week, we talked about Gusto and their round; how Gusto's gonna have employees that can be paid at the end of their shift. Everybody's going to instant payments. The Federal Reserve was in the news last week, because they lowered interest rates, but they also made some comments about ... I don't know if you know this, they run ACH.
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, I didn't know that.
 
David Leary: Yeah, essentially it all falls under the same ... It's the Fed, right? They pretty much designed, they run, they do the movement of ACH, and ACH, historically, [00:28:30] because it's a government thing, doesn't really make profits. It just has to charge enough to cover the expenses. That's why ACH is so cheap, and that's why people love ACH. Well, a few- 
 
Blake Oliver: A government program that actually works?
 
David Leary: Yes. 
 
Blake Oliver: And is efficient? 
 
David Leary: It works so well nobody wants to touch it I think is the bigger thing. 
 
Blake Oliver: Right. 
 
David Leary: A few years back, in 2015, they pretty much told private industry to build their own, "something faster." The banks did. The banks basically spent a billion dollars - all the Big Banks - and they built a [00:29:00] payments network that was faster. Zelle is a good example of this, this peer-to-peer instant payments, right?
 
Blake Oliver: Yep. 
 
David Leary: But they kind of just built it for themselves, so you have 10,000 other banks, the smaller banks in the U.S., that don't have access to this fancy network the Big Banks worked together to build. Well, what the Fed said this week is they're now gonna create their own instant-payments system. On one hand, the Big Banks are pissed. They're pissed about this, because it's gonna cut into their profits ... Because they can make a lot of fees on this, long [00:29:30] term.
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah.
 
David Leary: This is becoming very political, because, on the other side of the coin, you think like, here we go, Big Business is gonna influence government decisions. But on the other side of the coin, there's other Big Businesses, like Walmart that do not want to pay the banks these fees, and they want a free government program to move their money around. So you're seeing this big debate, and it's starting to become a partisan, even ... Here we go, Elizabeth Warren worked her way into the podcast again, and I'm gonna read her quote. She's like, "Big Banks want to force [00:30:00] families to use their private systems,” Warren said. Again, Elizabeth Warren, if you're listening, and you wanna come on the podcast ... Every week, you somehow ... In the bottom of the article ... Every week, she somehow gets into an article, and here's another one this week.
 
Blake Oliver: Whoever is doing PR comms for the Elizabeth Warren campaign is really on it. They're in everything, so, good for them.
 
David Leary: I have another related payments story. Previously, we've talked about Square. Everybody knows Square, those little white dongles you charge your credit cards at food trucks [cross talk] 
 
Blake Oliver: The original mobile credit-card [00:30:30] swiper.
 
David Leary: They're huge, right? Square's grown. I've even said that they might be Intuit's biggest threat in the United States. They announced their quarterly earnings, and they talked ... There's a little bit of numbers, and they made some moves. One thing they did is they sold their food-delivery business to DoorDash, but what they're really doing is they're doubling down on their ecosystem plays. Their ecosystem is really their small businesses, their front-end consumers. They're now in payroll. They have a huge ecosystem of stuff. Couple of interesting notes. Their loans grew by 36 percent. They gave about 70,000 loans for $528 [00:31:00] million in Q2.
 
Blake Oliver: Wow.
 
David Leary: Thus far, since 2014, they've given out $5 billion in loans to small businesses.
 
Blake Oliver: Wow. Yeah, that's a lot. 
 
David Leary: I think we talked a little bit about their cash card. They have a Visa debit card for small businesses. So, if you're a Square merchant ... If you're a Square food truck, and you go to buy your supplies for the food truck from a merchant that also uses Square, you can actually buy those with this Visa card and avoid all the fees on both ends, so there's-
 
Blake Oliver: You're just transferring direct from one Square account to another.
 
David Leary: Yes. [00:31:30] What they've done now is they've leveled this up, so now you can pay your employees directly to their Square card. If you think about it-
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah, okay this is- 
 
David Leary: I'm a small business owner. Square has the money. Square's paying my employees. Square still has the money. My employees are going to buy their lunch at different food truck for somebody else who has a Square reader and paying that food truck. They've completely cut the banks out of the entire equation, like the full ecosystem.
 
Blake Oliver: So, at what point does Square have to [00:32:00] become a bank? Because that's what it sounds like they are becoming, at that point.
 
David Leary: We've talked about that in previous episodes, they are trying to do that ... If you think about it, I'm sure the banks know this is happening, but I think they probably never guessed it would happen. They're just being cut out of the complete equation. That's all the stories I've brought this week, Blake. 
 
Blake Oliver: I promised at the beginning of this episode I was gonna talk about automation, and I specifically mentioned Andrew Yang and his platform- are you familiar with Andrew Yang's platform, David? 
 
David Leary: Yeah. I mean, we talked about it in the podcast earlier. [00:32:30]
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, we've done it in previous episodes. Basically, his idea is that automation is going to disrupt society to such an extent, it's going to eliminate so many jobs that are core to our economy, like truck driving, like fast food - all these jobs with millions, and millions of people; which, by the way, it's not so visible, but includes a good chunk of accounting. His platform is to create a universal basic income, where [00:33:00] everybody in the country gets some set amount of money per month that allows them to fulfill the basic necessities, like food and housing.
 
Sounds like a crazy plan, but part of me really loves it, because you could do away with a lot of social safety net programs that are super-inefficient just by giving everyone a check. The way Andrew Yang it is, "Capitalism that doesn't start at zero." I like this. It's really interesting. One of my friends from college calls it 'robo-socialism.' [00:33:30] I just like the idea. I like that it's out there, because I'm very attuned to the amount of automation that's going to disrupt society.
 
Some other folks are talking about this, too. There was an article on CNN.com called "The Robot Revolution Is Here: Prepare for Workers to Revolt," by Carl Benedikt Frey. This is in CNN Business Perspectives, and it was published at the end of July. He starts out by talking about how, in June, [00:34:00] thousands of dockworkers marched at the Port of Los Angeles against the coming introduction of robotic machines threatening their jobs.
 
Dockworkers, by the way, are some of the most highly paid middle-class jobs that you can get. The dockworkers in LA are so essential that they do really well. But it's a job that's also highly susceptible to automation. It used to be you had people who physically- all they did was load and unload cargo by hand. Now we have these giant machines that can do it. The [00:34:30] machines are still piloted, but now there's versions of those machines that are unpiloted. They're fully autonomous. So, these dockworkers who are left are protesting that.
 
I think it's a good example of the social unrest that will potentially occur when more and more stuff gets automated, and these good middle-waged jobs start to disappear. One of the stats in this article is a Pew Research survey stat that says, "A staggering 85 [00:35:00] percent of Americans support policies to restrict the rise of robots." Then, of course, he mentions Andrew Yang, who is running to ... He's actually, I think, misunderstands Andrew Yang's platform. He says he's running to protect jobs from automation, where actually he's running to create a safety net to protect people from automation, but, you know, same idea- 
 
David Leary: I think Andrew Yang's take is that it's inevitable [cross talk]
 
Blake Oliver: It's inevitable, yeah. You can't stop it.
 
David Leary: In the short term, for sure, people will lose their jobs. [00:35:30]
 
Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah.
 
David Leary: But, at the same time, there's gonna be new jobs created that we can't even imagine yet, but definitely, in the short term ... 
 
Blake Oliver: That's what this article is all about. It's a great read. It uses the Industrial Revolution as something to look back on and see what can we expect from the automation that's going to happen, because automation with AI is likely going to be as amazing, but also as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution was. If you're a student of history, you may recall the Luddites [00:36:00] who were famous for smashing machinery, and rioting, and destroying all this automation during the Industrial Revolution between 1811 and 1816, but they were just one small part of all these machinery riots that swept across Britain, France, Germany , and China, among other places.
 
There was a lot of growth. Output per worker grew by 46 percent during the Industrial Revolution; between 1770 and 1840, output per [00:36:30] worker grew by 46 percent, but the workers themselves weren't the ones who primarily benefited from that productivity growth. It was the owners of ... As Marx liked to put it, "the owners of capital." It was the factory owners. It was the new industrialists who primarily benefited. Now, eventually, the rest of- everybody else benefited because we ... It's kinda hard to argue with. We all benefited from automation [00:37:00] in factories. Now we have everything we could never have imagined 100-200 years ago.
 
David Leary: On the whole, society, yes- 
 
Blake Oliver: Yes.
 
David Leary: -more efficient, more GDP. Everybody benefits.
 
Blake Oliver: Right, but during that whole process, those decades, it was really disruptive and caused a lot of problems for workers who either had to figure out how to retrain or they lost their jobs. There wasn't any sort of safety net at that time, so it was even worse. That's [00:37:30] kind of the gist of this article. There are some specific jobs that are called out in here. 3.5 million Americans work as cashiers, but Amazon now has stores that they're testing that have no cashiers. There's obviously truck drivers; automated trucks could reduce the number of truck drivers that are necessary. You could have one driver who pilots a caravan of 10 trucks that are all following each other. Now you just need a tenth the number of drivers, that sort of thing.
 
I [00:38:00] guess it's just a cautionary tale of, yes, this is going to create enormous efficiencies and productivity gains, and we will all be better off when it happens, but while it's happening, there's going to be a lot of potential unrest. If you ask me, the political unrest we're seeing now is actually just a preview of what is to come, because a lot of the disaffected folks in our society are people who lost their jobs to manufacturing automation over [00:38:30] the last 40 years. So, imagine what will happen when service industries, or professional work, or office work is automated to that extent. Something big to think about, long term. The tie in, of course, to accounting is that I think McKinsey says that something like 40 to 50 percent of accounting work can be automated.
 
David Leary: Every time you see an article about automation, or what jobs are at the most risk, accounting and bookkeeping is always number one on these lists.
 
Blake Oliver: Well, yeah ... 
 
David Leary: What's [00:39:00] interesting with this is we're past the labor piece of this, the physical labor. If I have a swimming pool business, people would think I'd be insane if I hired people to dig the swimming pool with shovels. It's so common now; of course, you're gonna use a backhoe, even though, hey, that's 10 people that don't have jobs, because I have a backhoe digging the swimming pool, right? We're entering this new world where it's all the mental jobs. People that have [00:39:30] never been affected by this before are the ones getting affected now. 
 
Blake Oliver: To extend your analogy, traditional bookkeeping with data entry, where you're keying in transactions, that's the equivalent of digging a swimming pool with a shovel, but we're still doing it in a lot of businesses, and it's gonna go away.
 
David Leary: I think it's the natural course. It's just, you're right, people are not gonna like it. It's gonna be very disruptive.
 
Blake Oliver: That's why I like that somebody in the Democratic debates is bringing this issue up, because [00:40:00] it may not be here now, but it is going to be one of the defining challenges of our generation - figuring out what to do with the people who are displaced. Do we retrain them? Do we simply give them cash? What do we do? What is going to work the best? Not many people are talking about it.
 
David Leary: Essentially, Trump won because he spoke to people who'd lost their jobs due to manufacturing. Yang's trying to speak [00:40:30] to people that might lose their jobs in the future ... It's gonna be harder for him to make that argument [cross talk]
 
Blake Oliver: Yeah, well, I think he's just trying to talk to the people who are making policy right now to avert further problems, because we didn't ... When we shifted all of our manufacturing offshore, we didn't think long term about the impact of that. Nobody was out there saying, "Well, what is going to happen to these communities long term?" It was all just [00:41:00] short-term gain. Now there's all this effort to bring manufacturing back, but now it's all automated. Even if you do bring it back, there's not a lot of jobs to be had, so it's a ... And on that note ... 
 
David Leary: I think it's a bigger challenge, yes, with raising kids. What do you tell your kids to be? [cross talk]
 
Blake Oliver: Right, and the jobs they think they might have might not even exist. Everyone wants to be a firefighter when they're a kid, right? That's the stereotype. Well, what if we have firefighting robots? 
 
David Leary: No, no, no, everybody wants to be a YouTube [00:41:30] star.
 
Blake Oliver: A YouTube star ... 
 
David Leary: Now, apparently bots are making the YouTube videos, so those people ... That career is dead. 
 
Blake Oliver: I think this just shows that an investment in education is the best thing we could do, because lifelong learning is what allows you to survive in a constantly changing economic environment. You aren't going to learn how to do one thing in school and then do that for your career. That's been true for a lot of people in the professional world for a long time. But maybe that hasn't been true for [00:42:00] a long time. For a long time, it used to be you could just go major in accounting, get a job, have that job for 40 years; doesn't change much. Done. Right? I don't think that exists anymore.
 
David Leary: Not in the same way it used to. You have to be dynamic. There's constantly new jobs being created. But you're right, if you don't have the ability to learn or have the energy to learn something, it's gonna be ... It's difficult. I also think this is gonna have a lot of impact on age demographics. It's really hard to tell somebody that's 58 [00:42:30] years old - they're seven to 10 years away from retirement - "Go retrain yourself and get a new job." Somebody's gonna have to take care of those people. I don't have the answers.
 
Blake Oliver: That's it for me. We will continue to search for those answers in upcoming episodes of The Cloud Accounting Podcast. David, where should people go to connect with you online and to continue this discussion? If you have solutions, I'd love to hear them.
 
David Leary: Solutions, because this has turned into the political podcast. Elizabeth Warren made it. Andrew Yang made it. We've talked about the debates. It turned into The [00:43:00] Politics Podcast here this week. Best way to get a hold of me is gonna be on Twitter. I'm @DavidLeary.
 
Blake Oliver: And I am @BlakeTOliver. I would love to hear what you think about any of these issues. If you think I'm an idiot; if you think these are good ideas; if you've got something to suggest that we haven't even thought of, we don't know what we don't know. Please do consider subscribing to our show notes. You can go to BlakeOliver.com, and if you click on the blue Subscribe banner, you'll [00:43:30] get subscribed to the show notes. They go out every week after the episode drops, and it has a link to the episode webpage, where you can click on all the links that we talk about.
 
David Leary: I think that's a wrap.
 
Blake Oliver: Thanks, David. Great to talk and talk to you next week.
 
David Leary: Bye, everybody.
 
Blake Oliver: Bye.
 
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