Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made its way into daily life, from autocorrect on a smartphone to predictive search engine suggestions. When considering AI in finance, CFOs, treasurers, and cash managers are asking important questions such as how AI can support functional operations, and how to capitalize efficiencies now for future business objectives, i.e. growth.
“AI means different things to different players in the corporate treasury ecosystem,” says U.S. Bank Global Treasury Management Senior Vice President and Head of Product Management, Sayantan Chakraborty. “It’s critical to understand what AI can do today versus future possibilities.”
Understanding existing AI technology capabilities in terms of future opportunities mean corporate treasurers can begin to make strategic decisions ahead of their competition.
By committing present-day AI capabilities to make foundational processes more efficient and effective, treasurers are proactively positioning their organizations to harness future-state AI, where rapidly-increasing business applications are a competitive advantage against the constant rate of change.
Before seeking technology solutions, treasury management departments need to clearly understand and systematically improve how their teams work. Most companies won’t know how AI can improve business unless they’ve critically examined existing processes first.
Flaws in processes develop over time as a result of workarounds to accommodate exceptions, or from underinvestment in technology. Regardless of their origins, flawed processes incur hidden costs, often in the form of wasted employee time or project delays. While these costs may initially appear incremental, they can quickly amount to millions.
To understand where treasury will benefit most from AI, Chakraborty suggests treasurers first identify fundamental processes, analyze their direct and indirect costs and begin refining them. Then, a determination can be made where AI technology can enhance or assume those tasks, and treasury managers can optimize results.
AI is a broad and fluid category of computer science that attempts to solve problems that were previously believed to be only solvable by human intellect. The definition of AI evolves as technology advances, and some AI applications are now so commonplace that many people don’t see them as AI. This evolution is named the AI effect.
But commonplace doesn’t mean the evolution has halted. In fact, business opportunities for AI are developing faster than ever. In many cases, AI is already making treasury more efficient within all phases of the working capital cycle by creating visibility and operational scalability
Within the next three to five years, AI will become an essential element in high-performing treasuries. Chakraborty expects many corporate treasury employees will have shifted repetitive tasks to machines and allocate their time toward higher-value analytical work. Some treasuries may find their organizations already behind the curve.
To accelerate progress on treasury improvement, treasurers should also seek ideas and inspiration from within their operations teams. Members of Generation X are now in middle and senior management positions. Millennials and Generation Z make up a large share of entry-level and non-management employees.
The contemporary workforce embraces new technologies outside of work, and this attitude fuels the business case and usefulness for machine learning applications at work, Chakraborty says.
The adoption of AI in finance is creating a paradigm shift for thought leaders.
Traditionally, the treasury function is a considered a cost center rather than a profit center, meaning technologies often aren’t updated as regularly as business operations.
To begin transforming finance for the AI-enabled future, Chakraborty suggests corporate treasurers focus on future-forward compatibility when making technology acquisitions, and ensuring new platforms allow for a future application of AI. Data banks can be accessed and analyzed in new ways, revealing value and opportunities across functions and business activities.
When technology is an operational priority, the treasury function transforms from a cost center, adding top-line value and strengthening the bottom line.
“At U.S. Bank, we understand this. We actually help bridge the gap by creating tools that make it possible for our clients to take advantage of new technologies and help their businesses grow,” Chakraborty says.
Contact us to learn more about how AI can enhance your treasury department today and tomorrow.