Digital Transformation » Technology » Automation can bolster financial departments, experts say

As the world changes, so does the financial industry. Automation is a hot topic across the industry at large, but expert opinion seems to show that to work effectively, it must be implemented alongside human-led solutions.

At the 2019 Treasury Leaders Summit, panelists and presenters continually placed a focus on finance transformation, debating what that might look like as the industry evolves.

Throughout the summit, one key takeaway was that for any change to happen within the corporate finance sector, leadership needs to take control and sponsor change. Automation, for example, often comes with a hefty initial price tag, but can provide many cost-saving benefits once implemented.

Although finance departments may be wary of taking the plunge with major investment and transformation programmes, there are several lower-level practices that can begin to be automated. Payroll and accounts payable, for instance, already have a number of finance-specific, automation-first software plug-ins that can be utilised as a proof-of-concept before further developments are implemented.

Team-focused digital change

Additionally, software and technology can be used to develop a stronger financial team across a business. One international conglomerate director spoke about how his company uses online modules to help teach its non-finance employees, enhancing their financial acumen and expanding the team’s skills base.

Similarly, PwC is investing $3bn (£2.3bn) over the next three to four years in digital-focused upskilling, while Accenture is set to invest $1bn (£774.9m) annually in its employees’ upskilling.

These types of changes are quickly becoming a new standard within the financial industry as giants jump onto the automation movement. Amazon, for example, has pledged to upskill 100,000 workers by 2025, while several financial employers have committed to placing a renewed focus on upskilling their staff members.

It seems that these changes are coming at an important time in the industry’s history. A whopping 90% of the world’s data has only been created in the last three years, showcasing exponential digital growth.

While phrases like ‘robotics’ and ‘machine learning’ have been buzzing around the financial industry for many years, they have taken on new life in the past four years. Robotic process automation (RPA) software provider UiPath grew 37,458% in that timeframe; indeed, the RPA market as a whole grew over 63% in 2018, with greater growth forecasted for next year.

This growth pattern is impressive, but only matters if employers are putting it into use within their treasury and finance departments.

At the Summit, speakers from large-scale, multinational companies and firms explained that to keep up with the world’s evolution, companies needed to capitalise on automation sooner rather than later.

Saving humanity within finance

With automation becoming a necessity within financial departments, the human element of the industry cannot be undervalued. Rather than taking jobs away, automation can enhance jobs and take away the humdrum activities that have plagued the financial sector.

At the Summit, speakers encouraged financial departments to capitalise on the human element of the industry, particularly the creativity that only a person can bring to their role. While software can plug numbers and file invoices, people can problem-solve and create unique answers with the extra time that automation gives them.

Additionally, automation allows businesses to develop in-depth insights through reporting and analytics capabilities. As software compiles this data, it provides employees with more information to do their jobs effectively – essentially a win-win situation for both sides.

Automation can also benefit employees across different countries, helping bridge the time zone gap and encourage employees to maximise their in-office time. These little changes can help financial teams to use their time effectively, creating effective data solutions with the ever-important human touch.

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From FWD Research