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Intuit’s AI gamble: Mass layoff of 1,800 paired with hiring spree

In the name of AI —

Intuit CEO: "Companies that aren’t prepared to take advantage of [AI] will fall behind."

Signage for financial software company Intuit at the company's headquarters in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, August 24, 2016.

On Wednesday, Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi announced in a letter to the company that it would be laying off 1,800 employees—about 10 percent of its workforce of around 18,000—while simultaneously planning to hire the same number of new workers as part of a major restructuring effort purportedly focused on AI.

"As I’ve shared many times, the era of AI is one of the most significant technology shifts of our lifetime," wrote Goodarzi in a blog post on Intuit's website. "This is truly an extraordinary time—AI is igniting global innovation at an incredible pace, transforming every industry and company in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Companies that aren’t prepared to take advantage of this AI revolution will fall behind and, over time, will no longer exist."

The CEO says Intuit is in a position of strength and that the layoffs are not cost-cutting related, but they allow the company to "allocate additional investments to our most critical areas to support our customers and drive growth." With new hires, the company expects its overall headcount to grow in its 2025 fiscal year.

Intuit's layoffs (which collectively qualify as a "mass layoff" under the WARN act) hit various departments within the company, including closing Intuit's offices in Edmonton, Canada, and Boise, Idaho, affecting over 250 employees. Approximately 1,050 employees will receive layoffs because they're "not meeting expectations," according to Goodarzi's letter. Intuit has also eliminated more than 300 roles across the company to "streamline" operations and shift resources toward AI, and the company plans to consolidate 80 tech roles to "sites where we are strategically growing our technology teams and capabilities," such as Atlanta, Bangalore, New York, Tel Aviv, and Toronto.

In turn, the company plans to accelerate investments in its AI-powered financial assistant, Intuit Assist, which provides AI-generated financial recommendations. The company also plans to hire new talent in engineering, product development, data science, and customer-facing roles, with a particular emphasis on AI expertise.

Not just about AI

Despite Goodarzi's heavily AI-focused message, the restructuring at Intuit reveals a more complex picture. A closer look at the layoffs shows that many of the 1,800 job cuts stem from performance-based departures (such as the aforementioned 1,050). The restructuring also includes a 10 percent reduction in executive positions at the director level and above ("To continue increasing our velocity of decision making," Goodarzi says).

These numbers suggest that the reorganization may also serve as an opportunity for Intuit to trim its workforce of underperforming staff, using the AI hype cycle as a compelling backdrop for a broader house-cleaning effort.

But as far as CEOs are concerned, it's always a good time to talk about how they're embracing the latest, hottest thing in technology: "With the introduction of GenAI," Goodarzi wrote, "we are now delivering even more compelling customer experiences, increasing monetization potential, and driving efficiencies in how the work gets done within Intuit. But it’s just the beginning of the AI revolution."

Source: arstechnica.com

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