Will Automation Take Over Senior Finance Jobs?

Some finance executives think their positions could be replaced by technology, a new poll suggests.
David McCannJanuary 11, 2017
Will Automation Take Over Senior Finance Jobs?

Could the roles of senior finance executives grow obsolete, replaced by a robot or other technology? Some of them apparently think so, according to a poll by the New York chapter of Financial Executives International.

In the poll of 83 finance executives, 10% said they believed that some senior finance positions — at least, as we know them — will be replaced one day in a world of artificial intelligence, repetitive tasking, and increasing automation. A further 25% deemed such replacement “possible.”

“Presumably these executives will be working to restructure [senior finance roles] to emphasize functions that cannot be automated and to take advantage of free time that automation affords them,” said Matthew Cooley, president of FEI’s New York City chapter.

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Asked when the replacement will happen, 8% of those polled said it’s happening now or will happen in two to five years. The remainder said it would happen more than five years from now (34%) or never (58%).

By a 19% plurality, respondents selected the position of director/vice president of financial planning and analysis as the most likely to be eliminated, followed by corporate controller/chief accounting officer (12%) and tax director (10%). None of the respondents thought the position of CFO would be first to go.

Another way to look at the issue is that whole positions may not be replaced, but rather just some of the tasks currently performed. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated in 2014 that activities comprising 34% of a financial manager’s time could be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology. For CEOs, the figure was 25%.

Meanwhile, FEI released some comments volunteered by respondents to the poll:

  • “Advances in technology will continue to provide more accurate and timely data, but the strategic decisions made based on that information will always require human involvement.”
  • “Due to the heavy cost of banking and finance regulation, there will be continued automation and job reduction to reduce cost.”
  • “The whole artificial intelligence potential is at best a generation (20 years) away. Everyone take a breath and back away from blog postings on this subject.”