How AI in treasury management is transforming finance

July 16, 2021

Artificial intelligence can greatly increase the efficiency of corporate treasury management but maximizing AI benefits requires understanding its limitations along with capabilities.

 

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 treasury management ecosystem,” says U.S. Bank Global Treasury Management Senior Vice President and Head of Digital Transformation, Vipul Kaushal. “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.

 

Is treasury management ready for artificial intelligence?

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, Kaushal suggests treasurers first identify core processes, analyze inefficiencies, as well as their direct and indirect costs. Then, a determination can be made where AI technology can enhance or assume those tasks, and treasury managers can optimize operations.

 

How can artificial intelligence enhance treasury?

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

“It’s critical to understand what AI can do today versus future possibilities.”

Three ways artificial intelligence is transforming treasury:

  1. Transactional efficiency: Historically, payables, receivables and reporting require employees to spend significant time manually performing predictable and/or routine processes, managing exceptions and disputes, and identifying risk. Artificial Intelligence can enhance the effectiveness of these tasks while greatly increasing efficiency by reducing time demands. 
  2. Machine Learning and data-based decisions: Massive data banks are common in business, but many companies don’t yet realize how to use that data to produce business results. Sub-fields of AI, such as machine learning, data mining and advance statistical modeling can be combined for Predictive Analytics. Treasurers can use these “data stories” to inform decisions and forecasting. 
  3. Reliable controls: Managing risk and implementing controls can be arduous and time-consuming. Artificial Intelligence tech, such as advanced process automation (APA), can be integrated into existing processes. With APA, a computer “learns” a task by observing and recording the steps an employee takes, then performs the task itself. By automating, multiplying and accelerating controls functions, treasurers can reduce exposure and increase asset protection.

 

The future of artificial intelligence and the human treasurer

To understand where treasury will benefit most from AI, Kaushal suggests treasurers first identify core processes, analyze inefficiencies, as well as their direct and indirect costs. Then, a determination can be made where AI technology can enhance or assume those tasks, and treasury managers can optimize operations.

Kaushal expects many treasury management employees will have shifted repetitive and manually intensive tasks to machines and allocate their time toward higher-value analytical work. 

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, Kaushal says. 

 

Treasury and AI: from cost to contribution

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, Kaushal suggests treasurers focus on 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 building tools that make it possible for our clients to take advantage of new technologies and make it easy for them to grow their businesses,” Kaushal says.

 

Contact us to learn more about how AI can enhance your treasury department today and tomorrow.

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