Here comes a million-dollar question: Are finance professionals ready to adopt the Artificial Intelligence technology?
Automation in the financial space by way of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is nothing new today. It has been around for some time. Some finance professionals have embraced it gracefully, while some still live in fear of losing their jobs.
Experts opine that will most the jobs like accounting and auditing will have Artificial Intelligence technology as the backbone, the human element of the job is still here to stay. According to senior professionals in PwC, automation doesn’t cause people to lose jobs, but perform different roles of tasks.
In fact, Artificial Intelligence is pushing people to perform duties which are more meaningful, valuable and interesting.
According to a study by McKinsey, 60% of all occupations have at least 30% technically automatized activities.
According to the report by McKinsey Global Institute, automation will create new and incremental jobs to the tune of 550 to 890 million by 2030.
While Artificial Intelligence technology does the mundane and process oriented jobs like extracting, organizing and structuring the data, experienced accountants are involved in showing them the direction and making the process more productive.
- Teaching AI what data to look for and how to organise it.
- Since AI works with humongous data instead of just sampling like auditors, there has to be someone who is responsible for investigating anomalies.
Today the situation demands finance professionals working in tandem with Artificial Intelligence technology. There is a good amount of re-skilling that is required for auditors, accountants and bankers to excel on their jobs. In a world controlled by data, Artificial Intelligence will only work its way through numbers.
Human skills like analysis, judgement, critical assessment, understanding the technical nuances of accounting cannot be duplicated by Artificial Intelligence, hence finance professionals are here to stay. However, they need to imbibe certain qualities which will help them to navigate through the gradual technology disruption.
- Knowledge of data processes
Systems vary from client to client. There is lot of difference in the way each client have their process sets, data policies, and accounting methods. Hence, finance professionals need to possess knowledge of core data which will help them in understanding variable data processes across different clients. This calls for skills like data strategy, data processing, and expertise in probability, statistics, as well as drawing inferences and reasoning.
- Identifying automation needs
Automation is no threat but a useful development which allows professionals to delegate some repetitive task and keep the more important work like strategizing, planning and client servicing to oneself. For utilizing automation or AI to its full potential, the professional needs to identify which tasks need to be automated. A lot of logic and reasoning needs to go behind this. Automation is done mainly to reduce costs and increase efficiency. If the tasks to be automated is not chosen wisely, it will not serve any purpose.
- Data storytelling
Data Storytelling is an art. Artificial Intelligence can work on huge amounts of data, but it is upto the finance professionals how they deduce the findings and convey it in an interesting and meaningful pattern to all the stakeholders. There has to be a context of the data and story behind the data has to be brought out to make it more relatable.
Technology, People and Processes need to co-exist peacefully
Man and machine working together has proved to be much more productive than each of them working alone. Mike Baccala, US assurance innovation leader at PwC correctly states that technology, people and processes is a three-legged stool imperative for success in any business. Even if one leg is cut short, the stool would not be able to support the desired weight. While organisations need to embrace technology, they must ensure that people and processes are not left behind.
With the factor of automation looming large, the education system in our country calls for a complete overhaul. The qualifications like CFA, CA, MBA etc. need to have greater exposure to contemporary skills like Business Analytics, Data Science and knowledge on Artificial Intelligence. Moreover students need to be trained for more adaptability. On the corporate front, re-skilling or up-skilling of employees will help companies create a workforce that is flexible enough to switch between roles seamlessly.
According to Simmi Dhamija, Global Head Transformation at Tech Mahindra, the world is on the verge of fourth Industrial revolution and it is the survival of the most adaptive that will guarantee success. We couldn’t agree more!