Editor’s note: GenAI adoption is touted to bring benefits to enterprises and their finance functions. Nikhil Parambath (pictured), Regional Vice-President, Asia at BlackLine, shares with FutureCFO audiences major GenAI adoption challenges and how CFOs could overcome them.
FutureCFO: What’s the sentiment towards GenAI adoption in Asia Pacific?
Nikhil Parambath (NP): Sentiments towards GenAI have largely been positive, especially in digital-competitive environments like Singapore. IDC forecasts that the APAC GenAI market will grow by 85% CAGR from 2022 to 2027, with the financial services industry as one of the leading adopters.
In addition, 88% of Singapore C-suite and finance leaders chose GenAI as one of the key technologies that will help strengthen business resilience in a survey we conducted with Censuswide last year.
While the idea of using data automation and predictive analytics for business transformation is not new, what sets GenAI apart from other data technologies is its ability to generate personalised recommendations and content based on the real-time analysis of large, unstructured datasets.
Used appropriately, GenAI can optimize and complement existing operations, enabling finance and accounting (F&A) teams across all industries to make smarter, faster decisions and reduce time spent on manual, repetitive work.
For instance, GenAI can help automate mundane tasks such as expense tracking, flag data anomalies, and deliver data-driven recommendations for risk assessments and resource planning. This allows teams to improve efficiency and focus on being a strategic partner to the business.
You may consider setting up a cross-functional team to bring together domain experts from finance and tech.
FutureCFO: What are the challenges facing APAC finance functions in implementing GenAI?
NP: Training AI models to understand and interpret complex financial data accurately requires dedicated time and resources.
Unfortunately, today’s finance and accounting teams are often thinly stretched, aggravated by the region’s talent shortage and growing workloads. Teams may also lack the skills required to develop a robust AI model, ranging from AI, data analytics to business acumen and risk management skills.
Currently, most APAC organisations are in the early stages of exploring how GenAI can supplement existing workflows, focusing on low-level tasks that can be easily automated and checked for accuracy.
While its full potential lies in generating predictive and prescriptive insights, firms may be hesitant to ramp up investment due to potential risks around the technology, such as embedded bias, lack of transparency and accountability in AI models.
As legislators across the region seek to promote responsible AI adoption, firms may find it challenging to keep up with developments and ensure compliance.
Just this month, the Singapore government released a draft governance framework for GenAI, which includes proposals such as digital watermarks to provide greater transparency on how content is generated.
As the technology matures, we can expect that governments and regulatory bodies will continue to refine their frameworks and guidelines to safeguard user interest.
FutureCFO: What is your advice for the CFO when it comes to the implementation and deployment of GenAI?
NP: As with any digital transformation initiative, senior leadership plays a crucial role in setting the direction, rallying teams and managing resource challenges to ensure a smooth transition.
While there are concerns around the technology, this does not mean that organisations should steer away from it. Take time to fully understand it, how it can be best harnessed for your organisation, and start by experimenting with small wins in order to build momentum for GenAI adoption.
Ensure that your team is equipped with the skills to deploy AI effectively—you may consider setting up a cross-functional team to bring together domain experts from finance and tech.
Although GenAI offers many exciting possibilities, trust and visibility should remain the key priority.
As the overseer of all financial operations, it is important for the CFO to stay up-to-date with the latest regulatory developments, and address any potential issues related to accountability, fairness and data security early on.