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Treasures must face the challenges of AI, robotics and blockchain

A poll of 279 finance and treasury professionals, conducted at the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference in the US last month, found that few in the financial community think their companies are prepared for the changes that artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and robotic process automation will bring. Only 11 per cent think their company is either 'fully prepared' or 'very prepared' for these new technologies, while more than a third – 36 per cent – said their organisation is unprepared.

For example, very few said that their company is using robotic process automation, with just 6 per cent having implemented such a process, while 55 per cent have no plans to implement a robotics-based process. Also, only 2 per cent of companies surveyed have implemented AI, while 54 per cent have no plans to do so. Again, only 1 per cent of companies are using some form of blockchain-based process and more than half – 51 per cent – have no plans to, according to the AFP's Mindshift survey.

How technologies will disrupt business processes

The report includes three interesting forecasts that show how quickly technologies such as AI and blockchain could change how businesses operate:

  • Observers believe the government will start collecting taxes using blockchain by 2021.
  • By 2023, artificial intelligence will account for 30% of all corporate audits.
  • One study by the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation.

Biggest barriers to adopting emerging technologies?

The survey also found that:

  • half of the finance and treasury professionals thought that blockchain and the internet of things (IoT) will have a moderate or significant impact on their profession;
  • around half of the respondents said their company has no intention of implementing systems that use IoT technology, blockchain, AI and robotic process automation;
  • 58 per cent of the finance and treasury professionals said the biggest hurdle to adopting emerging technologies in their company is “awareness and engagement” – as shown in the AFP's graph below.

Wake-up call

The AFP's CEO and president, Jim Kaitz, said this should serve as a wake-up call for those in the finance and treasury profession. He said: “Treasury and finance needs to get their heads out of the sand and begin to grapple with these challenges.”

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