C-suite and finance and accounting (F&A) leaders around the world believe the modern business has to embrace new technologies like AI to streamline their financial operations, though many admit they may lack the requisite talent to execute on it.
This is according to a survey commissioned by digital finance transformation firm Blackline, conducted by independent research agency Censuswide and covering 660 C-suite and 679 F&A professionals (a total of 1,139) in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, and Singapore.
Therese Tucker, co-CEO of BlackLine, said: financial automation technology is now a necessity for F&A departments, and businesses are excited and optimistic about how technology like AI can further streamline processes and augment existing systems.
“While there is understandable apprehension in the adoption of emerging technologies, therein also lies a valuable opportunity for F&A leaders to enable the upskilling of their teams through automation,” said Tucker.
An overwhelming majority of Singapore respondents said that generative AI (88%), new kinds of AI (85%) and cloud computing (85%) are essential for improving business resiliency in the face of future disruption.
US and Singapore respondents displayed the highest confidence towards AI, with about to 9 in 10 believing that AI could effectively prepare F&A departments for disruption (US: 91%, Singapore: 88%).
When asked specifically about how AI could positively impact their industry, top benefits identified by Singapore respondents include enhanced audit capabilities, automation of repetitive tasks, and the ability to process large volumes of financial data at high speed.
Respondents also recognized the hurdles the F&A industry will need to overcome to adopt AI technology effectively. The most commonly identified in Singapore, and globally, is training AI models to understand and interpret complex financial data accurately (41%).
Trusting the outputs of AI (34%) and ensuring robust governance frameworks to stop the potential misuse of AI (34%), were also key concerns.
As businesses explore how they can harness these technologies, most concede that they lack sufficient expertise in these areas. The accountancy sector in Singapore has been experiencing a talent crunch, with more than three in five respondents (64%) believing their organization does not have enough team members with deep technical knowledge to identify and resolve complex accounting issues.
Bringing these skills into F&A departments is also proving particularly difficult. Nearly two-thirds (69%) struggle to recruit and retain enough skilled F&A employees to fulfil internal control responsibilities.
The current shortage of skills in F&A could be exacerbated by a lack of skills in these new technologies, putting further strain on the skills gap. Just over one-third (39%) said their F&A department currently has the skills to be able to use new technology or software.