Alix Lapkovsky, Manager, Richter LLP
Alixandra (Alix) Lapkovsky is a manager at Richter LLP. She graduated from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business with a double major in Accountancy and International Business and obtained her CPA designation in 2017. After spending four years in Assurance, Alix transferred to Richter’s Tax team to expand on her technical skills. She now assists the team with corporate and personal tax matters including a wide array of services from corporate reorganizations to dividend and succession planning. Alix loves working collaboratively with her team and giving back to the community through local organizations.
This is part two of a series of deskside chats with Associates at North American firms leading the way in innovation.
What does the word “innovation” mean to you?
Innovation, to me, is not only a work thing but also a life thing. It’s really about finding new ways to become more efficient in our regular everyday lives and finding easier ways of getting any job you are doing done. It’s a mindset, so to speak.
As a young tax associate, conducting research is a large part of the job. How has artificial intelligence (AI) aided in your process? What are some of the key benefits you’ve noticed?
I find when you’re starting the research process it can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if what you’re researching is new or a situation is vague.
When you use a general search engine, you don’t really know where to start. I find that by using Blue J Tax, I can hone in on what I’m looking for a lot quicker.
Overall, it really helps get a professional over that first research hump. There’s sometimes so much information—data overload!—and this tool has been helpful in sorting through that information.
A common fear amongst associates is that tools using artificial intelligence will one day replace them. What are your thoughts on this as someone who leverages AI in their day-to-day work?
I don’t think there should be a fear as you can really leverage such tools to improve your work and the end product. I think AI can be a time-saver to provide better and more efficient services to our clients. I wouldn’t say it’s a replacement but instead a good tool to have as a practitioner to enhance service offerings.
Your firm has been leveraging Blue J Tax for a while, what characteristics of Richter do you think contribute to its innovative approach to practicing accounting?
Richter has always embraced a culture of innovation. We work with entrepreneurs and business families; often that means we work with generations of families. To be at the forefront of technology, and to do so effectively, means we can assure each generation that our procedures are ahead of current practices and ahead of the trends in order to serve them better.
This pushes us to be growing, adapting and evolving constantly, as the needs and expectations of our clients shift.
How important is it to you to be forward-thinking in a field deeply steeped in tradition?
You have to maintain your competitiveness in this industry. It’s easy to sit back and ignore all the changes in the market but then all of a sudden, you’re racing to catch up.
Embracing technology like AI and encouraging your staff to introduce new ideas or try new tools helps you move forward. Tradition is a big thing for Richter, we’ve been around for 93 years—but it’s our tradition to keep pushing the envelope and staying ahead of the issues. It’s how we’ve grown for the last nine decades, and it’s how we help our clients evolve too.
Has there ever been a time where advocating for an innovative idea has been difficult? What did you learn from that experience?
People at Richter are generally open to recommendations. At the partner level, there is an open-door policy for new ideas. At times, the adoption of a new process can be lengthy given the size of the firm. However, we are encouraged to keep an innovative mindset.
Richter has launched “Richter Neo,” which is an initiative that encourages team members to pitch an idea, software or anything that they think would benefit the team. There is a committee of senior staff members that will review your idea, give you feedback and implement the idea if there’s enough consensus.
They realize that we’re the people on the field or at the forefront, so they trust us to come up with ideas that move us forward based on our experiences.
What role do you think young associates play in pushing firms toward adopting innovative solutions?
I find we typically are more malleable as we haven’t yet become married to any one way of doing something, so I feel once we are introduced to new tools/processes, we’re likely to give it a try. Sometimes it may not work and other times it may be great, but I think our willingness to try new things is key, as we are receptive to and even excited about what’s on the horizon.
The advent of technologies like artificial intelligence seems poised to make a large impact across multiple professions, including accounting. How do you foresee artificial intelligence will affect tax professionals, and the practice of accounting in general, moving forward?
I think the biggest change is efficiency. You end up saving time during the research phase which gives you more time to spend with your clients, diving into particular issues. There will always be an overload of information but with artificial intelligence, you can cut through the rest and really get to the root of the issue to understand what’s going on. With AI, you can really become a master of something without having to spend hours upon hours researching any one topic.
What have been the greatest benefits you’ve received from using Blue J Tax
The format really organizes information for you. Sometimes when doing general research, it can be all over the place because of the sheer amount of information out there. With Blue J Tax, I can organize my research in a clear and neat way. It establishes order in my research process that is more efficient, and I can work through it in less time.
Is there a specific feature that you particularly like in Blue J Tax? How has this feature benefited you in your work?
I like the Case Finder, where you put in specific facts and it’ll give you a concise list of cases. It helps you find the needle in the haystack. When you’re doing a general search engine you might find something, or you might not. But Case Finder is direct, it really helps you build a list of cases that you can get through that are similar to the topic you are searching for, which makes the entire process much quicker.