Date posted: 27/11/2023 5 min read

The human touch

How does generative AI compare to a professional research librarian? While AI chatbot technologies are revolutionising the way we access information, should accountants rely on them when researching topics for professional use?

Quick take

  • Members using AI for professional research need to verify all information.
  • Extra care is needed when entering information into public AI platforms.
  • Members can access the CA Library complimentary research service for reliable and accurate information.

On 30 November 2022, how the internet is used changed forever.

Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer (ChatGPT), a large language model-based chatbot, was launched by OpenAI and nothing short of a frenzy ensued.

The uses and potential impact of the technology was on everyone’s lips and, by January 2023, it had become the fastest growing consumer software application in history, soaring to 100 million users in just two months. Three months later, worldwide unique visitors had surged to 180.5 million users.

Following ChatGPT, similar AI models, such as Google’s Bard, were also released.

But should CA ANZ members rely on the content these AI chatbots produce?

Information specialist and CA Library manager Carolyn White urges caution.

“Generative AI [GenAI] creates responses based on the content in its large language model. Often, these models won’t contain content behind paywalls, such as published books, journals and newspaper articles. This can mean that trustworthy and current information isn’t captured.”

White says while GenAI may provide references, they need to be verified.

“We have seen ChatGPT responses where the references provided were hallucinations: the references didn’t exist.”

Models also incorporate information from user searches into future outputs. “Most importantly, do not input personal, confidential or sensitive information, including client files. The content could be added to the model and exposed in future responses,” warns White.

Carolyn WhitePictured: Carolyn White, CA ANZ.

Personal professionalism

To avoid some of the pitfalls of GenAI, White recommends using the complimentary CA Library research service, pointing out that GenAI will become another tool in librarians’ research kits.

“ChatGPT will often recommend users consult with a librarian; it recognises our expertise. In future, we’d like to see GenAI applied to smaller, topic-specific large language models and to include paywalled content in agreement with content publishers.”

Not there yet

Shannon Sims CA, associate at Brentnalls SA Chartered Accountants and Advisers in Adelaide, says she tested ChatGPT in areas she knew the answers to, and the responses were, in some instances, completely incorrect or simply out of date.

Shannon Sims CAPictured: Shannon Sims CA, Brentnalls SA Chartered Accountants and Advisers

“If I ever get an intelligent answer out of ChatGPT I need to verify it, which defeats the purpose of trying to save time. GenAI is a useful tool for things like templates, rephrasing text, or suggesting alternative wording, but not something I consider as a ‘knowledgeable’ resource. In my eyes, ChatGPT does not compare to the CA Library research service, as I use them for very different things. If I need detailed, credible research and useful information to help me with a task, the research service is always my first port of call.”

Wellington-based strategy adviser and management consultant Dean Rea CA, principal of Arrowhead Consulting, says he has used GenAI models for research because of client interest in understanding how they could be deployed in their organisations.

“Generative AI models are extremely useful for getting a broad overview of a subject area, but some of the output can be misleading.”

He says because the responses are generated by statistical correlations within its training data, the validity and applicability of the results to the real world is inconsistent, untrustworthy, or in some cases, inaccurate.

What the CA Library can do for you

Sims says she uses the CA Library to assist with client advisory papers, to source statistics and data, and to obtain specific legislative references.

“The service has been an amazing resource for gathering information together in one response, making it easy to access and utilise. My requests are responded to in one or two days at the most. I am always impressed with their efficiency, especially given the large amount of information they usually provide, with clear references and links.

“The library is very good at letting me know when there are contradictions between information found and indicating which sources are more credible. They have a very large knowledge base to draw from.

“I also always find the staff very courteous and friendly, which is a nice added bonus.”

Rea says that dealing directly with the team at the CA Library means he can give greater context and nuance to his research and, where required, provide additional guidance to clients.

“The research material provided is relevant, timely, authoritative and properly curated. I would absolutely recommend the research service to others.”

Crucially, Rea says the research service can find material that would otherwise be time consuming or difficult for him to access. “It is a significant benefit when working to tight client deadlines.” Rea and his team have used other professional research services, “and while they were useful, they did not match the breadth of reach or the level of accuracy I have experienced with the CA Library”.

The human touchImage credit: Photo: This is Engineering/Pexels

Complimentary research

CA Library business information librarian Tom Fletcher says he has answered countless member enquiries and no two are the same. “Generally, we receive questions relating to tax, accounting treatments and market research, but I have researched anything from the industry trends of cafes and coffee roasters to bank switching.”

Recent research topics

1. Can the design plan for a building be capitalised?

2 Can I have some data on GDP spent on New Zealand health care?

3. I’m looking for business valuation models applicable to valuing hydro energy products.

CA Library resources and services

All CA Library resources and services are complimentary to members, including:

Research service

Simply email your query to: [email protected]

Professional research consultation

Members can book a one-on-one consultation with a research librarian to help navigate the digital library, safely use ChatGPT for research, create newspaper and journal alerts, or locate specific information.


  • Articles and journals, including strategic finance and Harvard Business Review, and newspapers such as the Australian Financial Review
  • EBSCO - professional database
  • Technical resources including the Master Tax Guides
  • Curated reading lists on Excel, New Zealand and Australian tax, business valuation and many moreSoft skill, career, and personal development ebooks and audiobooks.