March 24, 2023

Accenture to cut 19,000 amid slowing IT spending

Professional-services company Accenture PLC is planning to cut 19,000 jobs, equivalent to 2.5% of its workforce, over the next 18 months to reduce costs and streamline its operations. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company explained that most of the affected employees would be in non-billable corporate roles. Accenture plans to continue hiring staff to support its strategic growth priorities. The company’s business-optimisation plan will cost an estimated $1.5 billion, primarily due to employee severance.

Accenture’s move comes as companies across various sectors look to cut costs due to concerns over rising interest rates, persistent inflation, and other economic challenges. Until recently, roles in IT were relatively protected from major job losses at technology companies such as Amazon, Alphabet, and Meta Platforms. However, the job market for IT professionals shrank for the first time in over two years in January, as companies scrutinised IT staff along with other positions.

Worldwide IT spending is expected to reach $4.5 trillion in 2023, representing an increase of 2.4% from the previous year, but less than half the previous estimate. Accenture’s move to cut jobs could reflect a reduction in demand from enterprise customers, resulting in a decline in staffing needs. As large projects are being scaled back, companies like Accenture are looking to reduce costs and streamline operations to remain competitive.
Source: WSJ

SEC issues Wells notice to Coinbase

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued a Wells notice to Coinbase, the US-based cryptocurrency exchange, indicating potential violations of securities law. The company saw a near 12% drop in its share value after the news broke. Coinbase stated that it believed the notice was related to various aspects of its business, including its Coinbase Earn staking service, Coinbase Prime, Coinbase Wallet, and its spot market. The company said the notice offered little information about the possible violations, which it described as cursory.

A Wells notice is usually issued before formal charges are brought by the SEC, and it provides an opportunity for the accused to rebut any claims made by the regulator. Coinbase has pushed back against the notice and its executives have criticised the SEC’s approach, accusing it of overreach. The SEC has stepped up its enforcement of the crypto industry, targeting firms and projects that it alleges have offered unregistered securities. Coinbase first faced scrutiny from the regulator in mid-2022.

Despite the notice, Coinbase said its offerings would continue to operate as usual, and it remains confident in its business practices. However, the SEC’s recent enforcement actions against other industry players suggest that the regulator is serious about enforcing its securities laws in the crypto space. Coinbase’s response to the Wells notice and any subsequent charges will be closely watched by the industry.
Source: Coinbase

OpenAI upgrades ChatGPT

OpenAI has announced that it is introducing plug-in support for ChatGPT, enabling the chatbot to access real-time data from the internet for the first time. Previously, ChatGPT was only able to pull information from its training data, which ended in 2021. With the new plug-ins, the bot will be able to interact with specific websites, allowing it to become a broad interface for a range of services and sites. OpenAI is providing 11 plug-ins for external sites, such as Kayak, OpenTable, and Expedia, and two of its own: one for interpreting code, and another for browsing the internet.

One demo video shows a user finding a recipe using ChatGPT, which then automatically loads the ingredient list into Instacart, redirecting the user to the site to complete the order. OpenAI says the browsing plug-in can retrieve real-time information and tie into APIs, allowing it to “perform actions on behalf of the user.” However, safety and security concerns have been raised about allowing ChatGPT to take actions rather than just providing information. OpenAI says it has taken this into consideration and implemented several safeguards, including limiting availability of the plug-ins to a small number of users, with a sign-up for a waitlist available.

This experimental feature is similar to Microsoft’s Bing, which feeds GPT-4 with information from the internet. However, the plug-in is more powerful as it can perform actions on behalf of the user, such as booking flights and hotels. The plug-in also allows ChatGPT to access APIs, meaning it can perform more complex tasks.
Source: OpenAI