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Is there a future for the CFO?

25 Feb 9:00 by Andrew Dallas
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As part of our ongoing commitment to providing interesting, topical market insight, this month we are looking at the CFO and how the role is changing.

The highly creative entrepreneur that heads a successful business or is driving a new exciting start-up will often see the role of the Finance function and possibly the CFO too as a necessary evil. On the other hand, many people believe a world-class CFO is far more than just head of Finance and has become essential if the business is to succeed – recent surveys have even shown that many investors would rather see the CFO running the company. So, which is it? Or could advances in technology and AI do away with the CFO role altogether?

Harvard Business Review designed and conducted an experiment using iCEO, a digital management platform that can run projects independently. In the trial, HBR tasked iCEO to submit a detailed proposal to a Fortune 500 company, a task that normally takes months. iCEO completed the project in a matter of weeks. So, could iCEO (and more advanced programs developed in future) deal with a CFO’s varied set of tasks? We believe not, and here are three reasons why:

1. Emotional intelligence cannot be automated

The issue isn’t that AI cannot calculate a variety of problems – the issue is that emotive factors cannot be so easily quantifiable. Decision making still needs a certain amount of human sensitivity, something that a CFO excels in.

2. Humans prefer human interaction 

Key decisions made by a CFO can impact the lives of employees and their families. Currently, humans only really trust AI for remedial or laborious tasks that don’t have a significant impact on employees’ lives or the complete success/failure of the business. For the foreseeable future, we believe the human decisions will remain the remit of the CFO.

3. AI struggles to adapt

Automation cannot adapt to the unexpected. Proof – try scanning a loaf of bread at the self-checkout, but then put a bunch of bananas in the bagging area! Despite its advances, tech is nowhere near the subtle touch of an experienced CFO, so we believe they’re here to stay.

Do you have any challenges, thoughts or questions that we should consider for our next market insight? We’d love to hear from you if so. Also, keep an eye out for our Q2 CFO event, coming soon.