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Employees have been under immense pressure over the past year to help their organizations navigate the crisis, and they’re finding a new ally in robots to help them better manage their companies’ finances.
To explore the impact of technology on the future of the finance profession, we partnered with finance expert Farnoosh Torabi to survey more than 9,000 consumers and business leaders across 14 countries.
The research found that younger employees are facing intense financial stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19. For example, 97 percent of Gen Z employees say that managing their organization’s finances scares them, and more than half of younger employees (52 percent of Gen Z and 53 percent of Millennials) are losing sleep at night thinking about their business’ budget.
To deal with the increased financial anxiety and pressure to perform at work, Gen Z and Millennials are turning to robots for help: a whopping 91 percent of Gen Z employees say they’d trust a robot to manage their organization’s finances. And the majority of Gen Z (79 percent) and Millennials (83 percent) even say they’d trust a robot over their company’s own finance team.
As AI and robots become more commonplace in business processes, the skills and competencies needed for a successful career in finance will inevitably change. Here’s how the future leaders of finance can position themselves for a successful career:
With AI poised to handle most manual accounting tasks, the development and proficiency of higher-level skills will be imperative to success for the next generation of finance leaders. Finance professionals will still need to be proficient in the fundamentals of finance and accounting for the purpose of overseeing the algorithms and being able to spot anomalies. However, their day-to-day work will increasingly focus less on crunching the numbers and more on data interpretation, business analysis, and communication with key stakeholders. Skills such as business strategy, leadership, risk management, negotiation, and data-based communication and storytelling will help to complement the abilities of robots in finance.
The rate of technological change is only going to accelerate. As the finance function continues to evolve, a college degree won’t remain relevant for the length of an entire career, and today’s basic training programs—many of which have used the same curriculum for years—will quickly become outdated. Instead, finance professionals will need to supplement traditional degrees and required annual training with additional certifications and upskilling opportunities that keep pace with the rate at which technology and the finance profession are progressing. On-the-job training from industry associations, technology vendors and systems integrators, and online courses will help keep finance professionals on the cutting edge. A commitment to continuous learning and a strong understanding of the intersection of technology and finance will become an important hiring criterion for the next generation of finance leaders.
Increased use of AI in finance will create opportunities for talent from non-accounting backgrounds to enter the field and will place new emphasis on additional perspectives. The fundamentals of finance can be learned, while characteristics that drive continuous learning are often picked up outside of formal institutions, through life experiences, and are ultimately harder to acquire. With machines increasingly carrying out the bulk of the day-to-day finance tasks, finance leaders and their recruiting teams should set their team up for ongoing success by seeking characteristics such as hustle and grit, collaboration, adaptability, creativity, and intellectual and technological curiosity amongst a broader pool of candidates than they traditionally have.
The confluence of new skills, ongoing education, and emphasis on additional perspectives will also create career paths for more diverse talent. Many under-represented ethnic groups haven’t always had the same access to traditional entry points to careers in finance. New technologies like AI will provide an opportunity for employees of every background to learn new skills simultaneously, allowing diverse groups to become subject matter experts in an exciting new field and secure a seat at the table early-on. Additionally, AI algorithms are only accurate if they reflect and learn from a diverse set of data. Prioritizing diversity will ensure that an organization’s AI algorithms are properly trained to mitigate bias. The coming era of AI will democratize access to careers in finance and place a much-needed focus on diversity and inclusion that will result in higher performing finance organizations.
Millennial and Gen Z employees expect companies to leverage the same technologies they’re accustomed to using in their personal lives and will favor businesses taking advantage of AI in finance over those who don’t. In fact, Millennial employees are 4X more likely than Baby Boomers to want to work for a company using AI in finance. And 95 percent of Gen Z employees believe that organizations that don’t embrace technology will face risks, including falling behind competitors (51 percent), inadequate decision making (45 percent), and more stressed workers (41 percent).
To learn more about the Money & Machines research findings and how your organization can prepare for the next generation of finance talent, download the full report here.