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The world's finance departments do not fear automation or artificial intelligence

Despite popular fears which range from job losses to doomsday scenarios, finance professionals welcome the rise of artificial intelligence, automation and robots, according to the latest survey by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). 

The results of the poll of 1,628 CIMA members reveal that 83% support the idea of more automation if it saves time and money or helps with indecision in their organisations. This indicates that accountants regard the impact of new technologies as an opportunity rather than a threat.

When asked about the effect of such innovation on businesses, management accountants were most likely to state that the outcome would be more efficient companies as a result of better automation and data analysis (62%), followed by a general up-skilling of the workforce due to the need for more advanced computer skills (47%). More than one third even feel that there will be a better work-life balance as computers will take over jobs while humans continue to reap the profit.

Only 29% of surveyed CIMA members believe that the increased automation will lead to a loss of jobs and therefore to greater inequality. This is in stark contrast to the popular view that major job cuts will happen over the coming years as a result of automation and a rise in robotics.

While only 22% answered that a reliance on automation or technology has led to their organization taking a wrong decision in the past five years, 39% said this has never happened as they know that they cannot solely rely on automated processes. Instead, results are double-checked.

Andrew Harding FCMA, Chief Executive of CIMA, said: “While it’s possible to imagine a nightmare scenario where advances in technology lead to mass redundancies, the world’s finance departments have a less alarmist view. Our members believe that artificial intelligence, robots and other technologies will alter, but not destroy, the jobs of accountants and other professionals. Organizations need to examine their business models and turn innovations such as AI and automation into an opportunity not a threat.

“There is precedent to support the idea that new technologies will make lives easier. Ever since the invention of the printing press – which led to unemployment for scribes but opened the door to mass education – major disruptions can be seen to have a short-term shock but deliver long-term benefit. The challenge for businesses, as always, is to use change to their advantage.”

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