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CFOs Embrace AI Amid Rising Uncertainty: Navigating Financial Challenges with Technology

A recent survey by SAP Concur reveals a robust adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) among Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), with 82% praising AI for streamlining business operations. Additionally, 28% of CFOs highlight AI's effectiveness in generating higher-quality financial data and insights, while 24% credit it with improving the accuracy of financial forecasting.

However, João Carvalho, Managing Director of SAP Concur in Southern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, notes that despite the enthusiasm, there are concerns about AI’s long-term impact on finance professionals. Two-thirds (68%) of CFOs believe AI could threaten their positions, and 31% see it as a risk to their teams.

“This perception needs to change, and fast,” stresses Carvalho. “When used correctly and responsibly, with full attention to data privacy, AI can be a powerful ally for overcoming financial challenges, transforming the role of finance leaders, and giving the business a competitive edge.”

AI: Friend or Foe?

Carvalho highlights uncertainty as the biggest challenge CFOs face today. “This is reflected in the survey with nine out of ten finance leaders agreeing their main task is preparing for the unexpected.”

He points out that forecasting remains a hurdle due to unpredictable markets, pricing risks, and outdated data. “Consequently, CFOs are turning to technology. They're increasing market monitoring (57%) and investing in innovation (40%). Over half are already using data analytics, showing how AI can be a powerful addition to this mix. By leveraging AI, CFOs can become tactical guides, navigating uncertainty and providing valuable insights.”

Freeing the Team from Tedious Tasks

“Finance teams spend 40-70% of their time on data wrangling,” says Carvalho. “AI can revolutionize this by automating tasks like invoice processing, thereby freeing people up for more strategic work.”

AI improves invoice matching, devises payment and collection strategies, and enables the business to respond to threats and new opportunities by automating risk assessment. Carvalho notes that AI reduces mistakes and improves compliance, allowing for better invoice matching and risk assessments. “This mitigates potential sources of uncertainty, with 47% of CFOs seeing AI significantly improving the tax function.”

Reshaping the CFO Role

“AI offers exciting opportunities for CFOs,” highlights Carvalho. “It provides real-time insights that help with forecasting, demand planning, and generating tailored financial plans. Armed with AI-powered data, CFOs can make better decisions and guide the business to be more proactive. This resonates with CFOs, as 61% believe AI is crucial for managing uncertainty.”

Beyond compliance, AI allows CFOs to leverage operational data for broader business guidance, including helping sales and marketing generate more meaningful revenue-generating activity or making room for R&D and innovation. “Overall, AI empowers CFOs to move beyond traditional roles and become strategic partners, driving innovation across the organization,” says Carvalho.

Using AI Ethically and Effectively

"While AI holds immense potential, we must be aware of data privacy, security, potential biases in AI's outputs and even ‘hallucination’, where AI-generated conclusions are wrongly presented as facts,” emphasizes Carvalho.

“It is crucial to work with a responsible and experienced partner who understands the importance of ethical AI practices,” he notes. “They can help implement strong security and privacy measures, which are crucial prerequisites to using the technology well.”

Carvalho elaborates that AI tools embedded into existing systems can help finance leaders unlock the value of the technology more readily. “A close connection between AI and business processes can ensure that AI-based predictions and recommendations remain accurate over time.”

"Ultimately, AI isn't a replacement but an augmentation for finance,” concludes Carvalho. “It frees up time for complex tasks and generates valuable insights for smarter decisions. Used correctly, AI unlocks new opportunities for the entire business, even in challenging times."

 

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