Just about a year ago, before the world was locked down, the big fear was technology taking over jobs. But, over the extended global lockdown, humans seem to have discovered greater faith in technology and machines, according to Oracle’s Money and Machines: 2020 Global Study that was conducted across 9,000 consumers and business leaders in 14 countries.
India is among the top three geographies including Japan and China where 83 per cent of Indians and 88 per cent of business leaders now trust artificial intelligence (AI) more than humans to manage finance. Across Asia-Pacific, 76 per cent of consumers said they would trust a robot more than a financial adviser, while at a global level it was 67 per cent. Covid-led financial anxiety, and sadness among both consumers and business leaders more than doubled in 2020. Also, 1 in 3 Indians is stressed at work, reporting reduced productivity, leading to inaccurate reporting.
“What the study explains is that while trust in humans is broken, we can clearly see robots filling the gap. Second, the outlook towards the role of finance teams and financial advisers is expected to change,” says Guru Prasad Gaonkar, Global Saas-ERP, GTM leader, Oracle.
Because of the Covid impact, 90 per cent of business leaders are saying that robots will replace finance professionals. A third of them believe that will happen as early as 2025. In India, there is overwhelming enthusiasm to embrace AI and 87 per cent of business leaders went to the extent of declaring that if organisations do not rethink their financial processes they will face risks.
According to the survey, business leaders said the best way robots can improve their work is by detecting fraud, creating invoices and cost/benefit analysis. Consumers pointed to fraud detection as a key opportunity for robots, followed by reducing general spending and investing in the stock market. Guru points out the rising trust in AI is leading to three outcomes. For starters, the scope, the job responsibilities and the power of the CFO’s job is going to be transformed because of AI. “The current generation of CFO or the CFOs who rely on the current generations of ERP will become a dying breed,” says Guru. AI in finance is going to introduce the whole concept of touchless finance factory. That means finance will become leaner. PwC’s research states the finance function will be reduced by 50 per cent over the next three years.
For finance professionals to stay relevant, the approach forward is to have a self-driving software as a service powered ERP because they will not have time for upgrading all these capabilities. “I am not surprised with the study as AI and ML are seeing unprecedented adoption, with the pandemic playing catalyst. Finance as a function is undergoing transformation. Elements like cost, control and compliance can be more efficiently managed by AI-based tools leaving business leaders and CFOs to tend to strategic roles facilitating growth, investments, enablement and value creation through digital technologies,” says Kannan Sugantharaman, CFO, Omega Healthcare.
Guru goes on to point out that there is enthusiasm in India to embrace AI, which led to Oracle opening its second data centre in the country at Hyderabad. “We have had 11 quarters in a row, where every single quarter we have reported more than 30 per cent year on year growth. India is one of our fastest growing markets when it comes to ERP cloud.”
What the report shows is that finance professionals are choosing not just a cloud, but AI-powered software as a service. Despite all the rising demand for robots, when it comes to things close to people, they still prefer personal advisers. This includes buying a house, buying a car and planning for retirement.