While digital technologies are touted as economy boosters, they've also created fear among employees in different fields including finance and accounting.
According to IDC, the total share of GDP driven by digital technologies is set to double from about 7% to about 15% in the next four years.
A recent joint study by Harvey Nash and KPMG indicates that one in five jobs will be replaced by AI and automation within the next five years.
In addition, 69% of survey respondents believe that AI would lead to job losses though they would be compensated by new ones.
While the respondents are CIOs, the results serve as a reasonable reference for CFOs and other senior management executives because of their relevant professional background.
As a result of these changes brought by technologies, there’s also a shortage of new skills required: big data/analytics (44%); cyber security (39%); and AI (39%).
AI in action in finance
Emerging technologies such as RPA and AI have started to work in the finance function.
For instance, some AI-enabled software tools can recognize invoices and expense claims after a certain period of learning time.
AI learns faster when there are more samples of documents, according to Rahul Chandra, head of South East Asia at intain, a company that has offices in India and Singapore while offering enterprise AI and blockchain solutions.
The AI solution by intain can recognize data types such as invoice numbers and and the amount to be paid, and extract data from different invoices accordingly, Chandra said.
He added that intain’s AI solution offers APIs for enterprises to integrate with their ERP systems.
What that means is: once they can correctly recognize data from these documents—usually coming in different formats—there’s no longer a need of humans to process them.
The use of emerging technologies are not only promoted by vendors creating them.
In Singapore, for instance, the Monetary Authority has launched a S$27 million Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics (AIDA) Grant in late 2018.
"The AIDA Grant is aimed to further help financial employers to boost their existing AI capabilities," said Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of Robert Half Singapore.
According to Robert Half, 86% of the 150 CFOs in Singapore it surveyed earlier this year are either already implementing AI or data analytics programs or plan to in the next 12 months.
In addition, 30% plan to hire additional permanent finance professionals to implement AI programs in the next 12 months, while 22% plan to hire temporary finance professionals, the recruitment agency said.
The top impacts of AI and robotics in companies are increased efficiencies and productivity (50%), better decision-making capabilities (46%) and enhanced processes (44%), Robert Half added.
What’d you like to do with the additional time?
The finance function can expect AI and other technologies to free up some of its time, but employees in the function would have new duties and need to acquire new skills.
While results of various surveys prompted employees including those in the finance function to learn new technologies such as AI and analytics to remain employable, humans by default resists changes.
“Instead of providing direct answers or making decisions for their teams, what a CFO should do is to coach them, as well as facilitating and enabling the value initiatives they want to carry out during the additional time freed up by technologies," said Tin Ha, director of Finance & Operations at Roche Hong Kong.
"Finance leaders also have to continue to invest in people’s “T” shape development so their roles can evolve over time," he added.
When it comes to T-shaped skills, the vertical bar of the letter refers to the depth of skills and expertise in a particular field while the horizontal one represents the ability to collaborate with people in other areas and apply knowledge in other fields.
Ha believes that engaged employees are motivated to go through personal transformation journeys and shape their own career paths while being part of enterprises' digital transformation.
A recent report from LinkedIn says that technology would displace 75 million jobs globally by 2022 though they would create 133 million new ones.
Nobody's sure about if the job losses can be compensated. But like it or not, it’s time to take actions to acquire new skills that will allow you to not only secure your job but also to be where you’d like to be next in your career journey.