AI-GUST – Everything for and by the accountant

BDO launches its own fintech

Mieke Loncke, Marketing & Communication Director BDO Belgium

Still too often, accountants have to focus on ensuring that clients have processed their figures correctly. In doing so, they lose lots of valuable time that could otherwise be used for providing sound advice that draws on this huge source of client data. With the pace of digitisation accelerating and technological development making it possible to distil advice from data, BDO comes to the rescue with AI-GUST, a knowledge platform that supports accountants digitally and proactively.

Exploit underused data

Increasingly, accountants are being asked about more than just numbers. As digitisation accelerates, the quantity of available data is growing too. With the help of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, these data can be a huge source of better advice for clients. “Now that we can exploit this goldmine of hitherto underused data, it becomes possible as an accountant to give advice to your client companies and organisations proactively,” says Tim Bottelbergs. He is the CEO of the recently launched innovative fintech knowledge platform AI-GUST.

“The power of the platform lies in the sum of the knowledge and data that individual members share and that external experts contribute.”

Peter Van Laer, CEO BDO Belgium

“AI-GUST helps accountants better meet their clients’ expectations by extracting data from existing accounting software packages and other systems and translating them into clear, actionable insights and advice that the clients can use to improve their business performance.” This is AI-GUST’s mission statement in a nutshell. “The power of the platform lies in the sum of the knowledge and data that individual members share and that external experts contribute,” explains Peter Van Laer, CEO of BDO Belgium, one of the driving forces behind the independent platform. “The more accountants, software suppliers, experts and so on join the community, the more effective the platform becomes. This explains the deliberate decision to involve two heavyweights from the accountancy sector – Van Havermaet and Vandelanotte – from the start and to start up AI-GUST together.”

“We’re also looking at the possibility of bringing in other players active in the sector,” Philip Lodewyckx adds. He is a Partner at BDO Belgium and, like Peter, a key figure behind AI-GUST: “Incidentally, it’s not our intention to rebuild existing fintech applications ourselves – even though we have the in-house expertise to do so. What we want to do is integrate them and offer them digitally in a neutral, independent manner, in an expanding ecosystem that will ultimately mean extra added value for our clients.”

Forecasting trends and rolling out benchmarks

The AI in the name AI-GUST refers to artificial intelligence, the platform’s engine. Tim explains how the platform works in practice. “An accountant connects and shares data via his or her existing accounting package and in an anonymised and secure manner in the data warehouse (comparable to the cloud). We run our algorithms on these data. If the accountant has a specific question, he or she receives targeted advice based not just on his or her data, but on the available data of the entire community. It is up to the accountant to decide how to tailor this ‘algorithmic advice’ to his or her client company. In other words, the accountant retains control at all times over his or her data and the advice from AI-GUST.”

“No more time-consuming, manual routine calculations. The accountant can serve and advise his or her clients in real time, quickly and accurately.”

Tim Bottelbergs, CEO AI-GUST

At the same time, the accountant can use the best-in-class software applications and accountancy solutions offered by the platform (via the “connectors”). Tim: “This promotes the standardisation of data management and reinforces the digitisation and automation of processes. As a result, the accountant can serve and advise his or her clients in real time, quickly and accurately, and no longer loses valuable time on time-consuming, manual routine calculations.”

In fact, AI-GUST is even smarter. Thanks to its huge database, the platform can also detect or predict trends and provide benchmarks. “And proactively send triggers to the accountant. For example, what is the impact of a new law or European rule on your clients’ compliance management? (Predict) Or did you know that the energy costs of your client x are not in line with those of its peers in the sector? (Benchmark)”

Licence for compliance

Peter’s enthusiasm is boundless: “AI-GUST’s ambitions are very far-reaching. Today, the platform focuses on accountancy and offering clients with advice. Once the time is right, AI-GUST also wants to give the end client direct access to specific tools and data, while respecting the accountant’s business. AI-GUST even wants to be the driving force behind a community where different parties can come together to support businesses in an efficient way. However far we choose to go, it’s important to remain compliant in all respects, and as BDO we have that ‘licence’.”

“As the ecosystem of data and players grows, the greater the added value will be for platform users and their clients.”

Philip Lodewyckx, Partner BDO Belgium

Finally, Peter points to the strength of the community as a lever for innovation (also read his opinion piece). “The partners and connectors that connect with AI-GUST strengthen their innovation capacity by sharing knowledge and investing together in innovative solutions that they can offer under the platform umbrella without straying into one another’s competitive territory. Together, they can provide solutions to very complex challenges for which no business or organisation whatsoever has the resources, let alone the strength.”

AI-GUST …

  • is pursuing its own course as an independent company
  • is focusing for the first year on developing the platform
  • will offer licences from the end of 2023
  • is based in Leuven
  • is a joint initiative of BDO Belgium, Van Havermaet and Vandelanotte
www.ai-gust.io