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Is automation friend or foe for corporate treasury?

Picking up heavy boxes of cash is problem we all might like to have. For workers at one of the service units at a Japanese bank, it's a problem that will feel 40% lighter in future – thanks to a robotic body brace that will help older staff to lift said boxes. Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (SMBC) will be giving the lifting devices to several of its employees aged over 65, as reported on Finextra.

It's another example of robotic technology enhancing our professional lives and easing our burdens. But how long before technology automates us out of a job? It's a serious concern for millions of employees in white-collar jobs across the world. For those working in the financial industry, automation is particularly pertinent. Ask anyone working in corporate treasury and they'll tell you that automation allows them to concentrate on the analytical work that really adds value, as well as on the soft skills. After all, a computer can't sweet-talk a banker, can it?

But, according to a report from Hackett Group – cited in this article Corporate finance jobs being taken by robots – the median number of full-time employees in finance departments has dropped by 40% since 2004, from 119 people for every $1 billion of revenue to 71. Automation of financial processes has been one of the ways corporates have sought to cut costs since the financial crisis began in 2008.

This chimes with a study published in 2014, by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University, which suggested that financial jobs – they took the example of accountants and auditors – have a probability of 0.94 of computerisation leading to job losses in the next two decades. While many working in corporate treasury will feel joy at being relieved of manual, mundane tasks, it could mean fewer available positions in future. The answer could be to focus on the data generated by our sophisticated systems and ensure one's analytical skills are up to scratch.

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