How Chief Financial Officers Can Make the Most of AI

AI tools can accelerate finance processes but understanding the foundational principles behind these tasks remains paramount

Thomas Sutter, Industry director, finance and global solutions

May 13, 2024

4 Min Read
A woman works on financial charts at a laptop
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After decades of promise, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are now seen as tangible tools for businesses of all sizes. With AI’s ability to recognize, interpret and classify data, chief financial officers (CFO) are being touted as possible power users of a technology that has the potential to add $13 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

Meanwhile, in an ever-changing financial landscape, CFOs play a more important role than ever. As organizations struggle with talent shortages and the difficulties of filling key roles, there is an increasing demand for long-term solutions. AI could be the game changer – promising to not only close the talent gap but also expand the capabilities of finance professionals.

But that requires close collaboration and harnessing the power of people and technology in tandem. It’s vital to cultivate the indispensable skills that will ensure CFOs and their teams remain front and center in a world driven by AI.

Understanding AI’s Potential and Limitations

Increased efficiency is a major driver in the competitive world we live in and AI-driven automation has the potential to automate 40% of the average workday, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Although some skepticism remains in finance – particularly around the transparency of algorithms in decision-making – the key is to strike a balance in which AI helps teams perform better. AI tools can be applied to accelerate finance processes but understanding the foundational principles behind these tasks remains paramount.

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Finance professionals must retain a robust understanding of closing the books, financial planning, revenue recognition rules and regulatory standards, ensuring that AI-generated outputs are anchored in sound financial practices. For instance, while an AI tool may predict a sudden revenue spike based on historical data and market trends, professionals must validate this information against potential upcoming product launches or internal challenges unknown to the AI tool.

As we navigate significant technological and financial changes, we must implement the appropriate learning courses to ensure that employees understand how to use AI tools responsibly and efficiently.

Essential Skills for Finance Professionals in the AI Era

In gearing up for the future, CFOS must build a skillset that works hand-in-hand with AI.

First and foremost, while AI tools understand numbers based on accounting and finance theory, they may not possess the nuance or understanding of the unique characteristics of various industries. Having real-world experience in a variety of fields is like having an extra layer of knowledge, which is something that can never be taken away from finance professionals.

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In a sea of financial data, being able to tell a story through visuals is a game changer. That is where data visualization skills come in. It's not just about numbers, it's about turning them into a clear and compelling narrative. This skill is essential for CFOs who want to share insights in a way that everyone understands.

Additionally, understanding data science and predictive analytics is like having a crystal ball. It helps in the prediction of future trends, income forecasting, and the detection of anomalies in large datasets. For finance professionals, this means staying one step ahead in decision-making.

Successful financial management demands more than just understanding numbers. It's about having a combination of industry knowledge and skills and the ability to navigate complex data.

Successfully Working Hand-in-Hand

AI tools can help finance teams become strategic powerhouses where they are not only empowered to focus on strategic initiatives but also required to demonstrate adaptability and innovation in response to changes.

Various applications demonstrate the successful integration of AI in finance. One approach is predictive analytics, which uses AI tools to help predict revenue more accurately. Over time, as financial teams grow comfortable with AI tools, they can make quick informed decisions based on more accurate forecasts. AI tools can also be good at recognizing patterns, which helps in detecting anomalies or potential risks in financial transactions. This can improve financial security and help to prevent fraud.

In addition, AI-powered automation can be applied to speed up and simplify routine financial tasks. For example, tasks such as invoice and transaction processing and report creation can all be automated. With these mundane tasks completed, finance professionals can focus their efforts on analyzing complex financial scenarios, identifying growth opportunities, and developing long-term strategies for the organization.

As the finance world embraces new technology, integrating AI becomes increasingly important for CFOs and their teams. Developing a collaborative mindset lays the groundwork for success. 

By developing the above skills, finance professionals position themselves not only to survive but also to thrive in an era when AI becomes a powerful ally, reshaping the landscape of financial decision-making. These tools not only allow CFOs to focus on critical goals but also give them the freedom to decide how to best handle financial challenges. 

The future belongs to those who embrace change by leveraging new technology to elevate their expertise and CFOs can redefine their roles by automating processes with AI tools.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Sutter

Industry director, finance and global solutions, Oracle NetSuite

Thomas Sutter is a seasoned professional in the field of finance, leveraging his extensive background to contribute significantly to Oracle NetSuite's Finance Centre of Excellence. With a career rooted in financial leadership roles, he brings a wealth of experience to his current position.

His primary responsibilities include providing guidance to customers, contributing to product development, promoting best practices and advising on software implementation strategies. Prior to joining Oracle NetSuite, Thomas held positions as finance director and controller, where he managed international finance operations and local reporting for large corporate entities.

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