Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Finance

October 19, 2018 By Dave Chase

The term ‘machine learning’ has become a buzzword in the past couple of years or so. Investors continually invest in artificial intelligence or “AI” technology each year — between $26 billion and $39 billion in 2016 according to the McKinsey — of which nearly 60% went into machine learning. Machine learning is itself a subfield of AI.

For most of us, we can leverage what others are doing in AI and Machine Learning without having to spend millions of dollars doing it ourselves. Thankfully, we don’t need to know too much about AI and Machine Learning to utilize it. For example, accounting software is getting smarter, and it is already performing tasks that previously required human intervention. Repetitive, manual, and tedious tasks are eliminated so that the finance team can now spend less time on keeping records current, and more time on other important tasks. 

RPAs Automate the Repetitive

As finance professionals, we can and should regularly study and compare notes with other financial professionals.  Additionally, we should adopt quickly the advances in technology. Most modern CFOs and other financial professionals can engage in AI and Machine Learning by adopting quickly.  This adoption process is called RPA – Robotic Process Automation. Using RPA, a company can configure software, or a “robot,” to perform many tasks.  RPA scenarios range from generating an automatic response to an email, to connecting two systems that hold data, to deploying thousands of bots, each programmed to automate jobs in an ERP system.

Automation offers the opportunity to drive the next evolution in how finance is delivered. The traditional offshore model is starting to weaken as popular offshore locations are becoming more prosperous, and what used to be ‘cheap’ isn’t anymore. As technology continues to advance, we can begin to leverage technology, from robotics to artificial intelligence.

In terms of RPA, CFOs should ask themselves if there are opportunities to automate in areas that eat up valuable resources and slow down financial operations. Some of these areas include:

Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Finance
  • Planning, budgeting and forecasting
  • Financial reporting
  • Operational accounting
  • Allocations and adjustments
  • Reconciliations
  • Intercompany transactions

A large portion of finance’s workload can benefit from automation.

AI’s Role in Finance

In reality, the primary role of a CFO is to organize and present organizational data in such a way that better decisions can be made.  Closing the books, forecasting… these are just the building blocks of the ultimate deliverable — business intelligence and insights. Of all these technologies, RPA is arguably the quickest win for finance function digitization because it can be easily embedded within the existing IT infrastructure to realize significant time savings in just a few weeks. while bots and intelligent software are able to add incremental value within a short span of time, mistakes made during implementation can thwart the full potential. Most often, we misstep by not carefully selecting the processes best suited for RPA or trying too hard to automate the entire process.

Contrary to popular imagination, the finance world of the future will not be manned by a robot army. It will, instead, comprise of a team of trusted advisors in the organization utilizing advanced tech. New technologies are simply tools to help finance professionals extract relevant insights, from both financial and non-financial data, for fact-based decision-making, which is precisely what our CEOs and boards expect of us.

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Sources:
CFOInnovation     TowardsDataScience     Forbes      CFO     Workday

David ChaseManaging Partner at Advanced CFO, has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With nearly 20 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $0.5 billion.

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