On the whole, most of us have come to accept that AI and automation are inevitably going to make an impact in our everyday lives – if they haven’t already. For accountants and finance professionals, this may have been a slow, deliberate path. We have traditionally
been protective of our expertise and the insights we bring. We have put our faith in the talent that we nurture from the bottom of the financial organisation pyramid. And we trust our judgement.
But that is changing.
Almost 50% of people believe that robots will replace finance professionals in the next five years. This doesn’t mean you need to dust off your CV, however. What it actually means is that finance professionals
as we know them today will soon be very different – performing different roles, bringing more value to their organisation.
The recognition is real
Any scepticism from CFOs around adopting AI is swiftly waning.
Recent Oracle research found that 66% of finance leaders trust robots more than their finance team, and 65% even trust them more than themselves. This shows just how far AI’s capabilities have come, especially on repetitive tasks, detail-oriented work and
balancing the millions of numbers in our books.
This recognition of the impact of AI in finance teams is one thing, but it is not just about putting the systems in place. Now, it is about taking our teams with us on the journey.
Improvement not replacement
While the idea of trusting robots more than yourself may sound like something from the world of science fiction, we’re now seeing that more than 4 in 5 people believe that robots can improve their work.
This will reshape the way we build our organisations. Traditionally, the finance function has been a pyramid, with the foundation being lots of staff doing transactional processing, often at the beginning of their career. The majority of this work will now
be done by AI systems. The days of bookkeeping by people will soon come to an end.
But this does not mean the end of a career in finance – it actually means the beginning of a more rewarding one. It will push people to be more focused on bringing value to the organisation instead of just working through rows of data in Excel spreadsheets.
It will require an understanding of tools and systems, how to use them, and how to get the most out of them.
The adoption of AI systems will be about people within your finance team developing new skills – be that data analytics, cybersecurity or manipulating ML algorithms. It will also put more of a focus on the soft skills that we need to be better business partners.
If we harness this attitude towards AI technology within our finance organisations in the right way – seeing it as an opportunity, not a threat – the number of people who welcome help from robots for finance tasks will soar far above the 77% we’re already
The role and skillset of the finance professional will soon be very different – for the better. We will become more strategic business partners and bring more value to the organisation. Because of this fundamental shift in roles, many in our function will
look to become more specialised. For example, new starters and older hands choosing to focus on tax, treasury management, or FP&A for example.
While there is no understating the value a finance team already brings to an organisation, AI will expand this exponentially. In the future, accountants and finance professionals will become guardians of the data that helps inform all business decisions,
adapt to regulatory changes, report against standards and ensure the objectivity of public reporting. We will take a much broader role in the business, and one that is long overdue.
To put it simply, AI will open doors for finance professionals, and I for one am excited to see where that takes us.