Tech revolution poses threat to finance jobs

Read time 3min 10sec

A senior industry executive says the pace of technological development is increasingly impacting on finance function jobs, risking half of them going into redundancy in the near future.

Alida Botes, partner at PwC strategies for business, says the latest wave of innovation brings new threats and opportunities for finance professionals and will require a dramatic shift in financial skills and capabilities, including the role of the new CFO.

She says finance leaders will play a much more dynamic and facilitative role, moving from static and rigid processes and controls, to adaptive, agile and resilient models which require orchestration rather than execution and control.

“Fifty percent of the finance function jobs will be redundant in the future because they will use technology to provide them with information and the bulk of the processes will be automated, so yes, there will be an impact on the jobs in finance.”

However, Botes cautions that although a reduction in the size of finance is predicted, technology is also creating new emerging roles and future jobs across finance organisations.

“With this, finance teams of the future should exhibit a range of important characteristics, including digital ways of working so data is single source, using predictive analytics as the norm for generating insights and innovative ideas, making the workforce and its new skillset key enablers.”

She notes the application of artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace has impacted the way in which finance professionals perform their role and this will continue. Botes, however, believes these technologies, as with many before them, should be seen as tools to help professionals perform their roles more efficiently, rather than as replacements for humans.

Explaining how technology impacted SA’s finance sector, Botes says: “The key focus in South African financial services is on a lot of automation that has taken place. Also, we are using much more digital platforms for direct engagement with customers, so it’s digitalisation and automation of processes.”

South African professionals are not alone in this predicament as it’s a global development.

Andrew Harding, chief executive of management accounting at Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), in an analysis wrote: “Technology from artificial intelligence to computer algorithms is disrupting the world of finance and will change the very fundamentals of the finance function.

“On average, the World Economic Forum says employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period leading up to 2022. This means businesses need to actively encourage and support their existing finance teams in their learning endeavours by devising strategic long-term talent management and development strategy.”

CIMA is the largest management accounting body in the world with 281 467 students and 106 095 chartered global management accountants (CGMAs).

Botes points out that although challenging, the technologies have also brought some positives.

“Because they are working in a digital environment, access to information is easy; it’s easy to do insights.

“When I deal with clients, the majority of them are actually using technology effectively. With new technologies coming up, it actually frees them to do value-add activities.”

Botes, who addressed CIMA members in Cape Town at its annual CGMA Africa conference, predicts the future will be more exciting for the finance people.

“The biggest thing that will impact our sector is artificial intelligence and the ability within the finance profession to be able to do analysis and comparison using artificial intelligence that will actually help you predict the future.”

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