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The Aptitude Blog

Event recap: AI-powered Autonomous Finance | New York & Toronto

June 5, 2024
Posted by Jay Tocco

We are thrilled to announce the successful conclusion of our ‘AI-powered Autonomous Finance’ events in New York and Toronto, co-hosted with our partners Microsoft and HSO! Our massive appreciation goes out to our insightful speakers and enthusiastic attendees who contributed to enriching discussions on the future of finance. Don’t miss our post-event recap reel!

 

Event venues and sessions

The sessions were held at the Microsoft Offices in New York on May 15th and the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto on May 16th. Mark Aubin, SVP of Product and Market Engagement at Aptitude Software kicked off the events with an exclusive first look at our Autonomous Finance Benchmark Research. This research included insights from over 1,700 finance professionals and in-depth conversations with 10 global CFOs. Catch a sneak peek of the research results in our video!

The research uncovered trends in finance challenges, opportunities, automation, and AI usage. Respondents also placed themselves on a continuum from traditional finance to fully integrated, automated, and autonomous finance, highlighting regional and sector differences in modernization journeys.

 

Panel insights: The art of the possible for CFOs

 

New York panelists:

  • Jeff Einig, CPA & Sr. Finance Technology Specialist, Microsoft
  • Jeffrey Hunt, VP, ERP Solutions, HSO
  • Mark Aubin, SVP, Autonomous Finance, Aptitude Software

 

Key insights:

Jeff Einig from Microsoft emphasized prioritizing tasks that align with strategic goals and the need for granular compliance to leverage AI effectively. He also stressed the importance of starting with clean, centralized data stating, “Getting the data right is probably the most important thing you have to do before implementing AI and automation.”

Jeffrey Hunt from HSO noted regional differences in AI adoption and the need to move quickly to stay competitive: “While the US is ahead of the global average, countries like Singapore and Hong Kong are very aggressive in adopting AI. It is a competitive world, and we need to adopt AI technologies as quickly as possible.”

Mark Aubin from Aptitude Software highlighted AI’s role in enhancing variance analysis and anomaly detection, “AI is the perfect tool to identify spikes, whether they are anomalies or opportunities.”

The panel also emphasized a culture of continuous improvement and training within finance teams. Jeffrey Hunt advised setting a clear vision, investing in training, and embracing new technologies: “Organizations should invest in training to develop their teams. The nature of work will change, and finance professionals need to be prepared to adapt.” Mark Aubin commented, “Don’t wait. You can invest a little bit of money and see really good returns. Everything you do will result in learnings that you’ll be able to apply to other projects.”

 

Toronto panelists:

  • Craig Henningsen, Partner, Q-Perior
  • Jeffrey Hunt, VP, ERP Solutions, HSO
  • Mark Aubin, SVP, Autonomous Finance, Aptitude Software
  • Peter Goth, Managing Director, FSI, Business Applications, Microsoft

 

Key insights:

Jeffrey Hunt highlighted significant cultural shifts at the executive level and the impact of integrated CRM systems: “We don’t do planning any more in the field on PowerPoints… we do it in our CRM, in Dynamics. For someone like me who jumps from account to account, I have one place to go to brief myself before talking to leaders and executives.”

Craig Henningsen discussed challenges and opportunities in the insurance sector observing, “We had a lot of software that serviced specific functions, but without value and business context, they often failed. With AI, there’s an opportunity to create value by focusing on areas where it can be most impactful.”

Mark Aubin and Jeffrey Hunt discussed finance transformation, observing “Autonomous finance is a movement, not just a trend. It’s about leveraging AI to create meaningful change, improving processes, and enabling true digital transformation.” Jeffrey Hunt also spoke about the importance of AI in achieving autonomous finance, adding “AI is the enabling factor for autonomous finance. You can’t reach a fully autonomous stage without AI as part of the structure.”

Finally, the panelists emphasized starting small and learning incrementally and added their tips for getting started:

  • “Start somewhere, and the system will learn and improve. Waiting will only put you further behind,” (Jeffrey Hunt)
  • “You have to set the North Star for your data journey. It’s about having confidence in your data rather than achieving perfection from the start.” (Peter Goth)
  • “Carve out time for training, identify use cases for AI trials, and solve pressing problems with incremental improvements.” (Mark Aubin)
  • “Organizations should invest in training to develop their teams. The nature of work will change, and finance professionals need to be prepared to adapt.” (Jeffrey Hunt)

 

Panel insights: The future of Autonomous Finance CFO roundtable

 

New York Panelists:

  • Greg Adams, SVP & CFO for the American Management Association
  • Matt Trager, Product Management Director, Finance Transformation for Wells Fargo
  • Shaun Taylor, CFO Americas for Standard Chartered Bank

 

Key insights:

Matt Trager from Wells Fargo emphasized the value of standardizing data and using advanced tools to reduce manual reporting and operational risks: “In the next 3 to 5 years, it’s going to be about reducing manual reporting and using tools like BI and Low Code solutions to drive value and reduce operational risks.” Trager also mentioned the evolving nature of technology and the necessity of adapting to rapid innovation: “Charting a course is difficult because innovation is moving so fast. In two years, we might have different tools and capabilities.”

Greg Adams from the American Management Association highlighted the importance of integrated efforts across departments and the potential of cloud analytics to drive business strategy stating, “The most exciting development for us is cloud analytics, particularly for our FP&A group, as it will drive business strategy and direction.” Adams added that having clean, trusted data is crucial for the success of any automation or AI implementation: “Trusted data is essential. Accurate, reliable data will drive successful implementation of any system.”

Shaun Taylor from Standard Chartered Bank discussed the slow pace of finance transformation due to the complexity of systems and regulatory environments. “We’ve been on a finance transformation journey for ten years. It’s a slow process due to the complexity of systems and regulatory requirements across multiple markets.” He emphasized that finance is best placed to define the vision for data utilization: “Finance is best placed to determine the data model and ensure it meets the needs of all departments, but successful implementation requires a collaborative effort with IT.”

 

Toronto panelists:

  • Carl Gern, Director, Global Strategic Alliances, Aptitude Software
  • Nicholas Notarius, Division Vice President, BU Controller, AMETEK Reichert
  • Paulina Molnar, CPA, CA, ICD.D, Finance Expert, Previous SVP Finance, Rogers

 

Key insights:

Nicholas Notarius, Division Vice President, BU Controller at AMETEK Reichert, underscored the company’s strategic shift towards AI on the Autonomous Finance benchmark. “We’re between integrated and automated,” he explained, targeting full automation within three years by refining processes and ensuring data cleanliness. “We plan to introduce ‘autonomous’ elements gradually over time, though I doubt any business can be truly autonomous.”

Notarius highlighted a collaborative effort between the CFO and CIO in driving finance transformation. “The CFO drives the vision while the CIO acts as a close business partner, addressing cybersecurity and technical blind spots,” he noted. Discussing automation and AI, Notarius expressed enthusiasm about managing by exception and gaining new insights. “AI models need specific feeding to work well, and most companies lack the proper structure. Clean data and well-defined processes are crucial,” he explained. He emphasized that AI creates opportunities rather than just displacing jobs and called for gradual organizational buy-in, with employees understanding AI’s positive impact on their roles.

Addressing barriers to AI adoption, Notarius cited data privacy, potential AI errors, lack of understanding, data cleanliness, and regulatory issues as primary concerns. To support the move towards AI, he highlighted the slow introduction of company-approved tools like co-pilot. “AI integration will be a slow, gradual build for most companies,” he acknowledged, emphasizing the importance of a steady approach to effectively leverage AI and drive successful finance transformation.

Paulina Molnar emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach between CFO and CIO for successful finance transformation stating, “CFO leadership working closely with the CIO is crucial. Finance needs to know what they want to transform and why and have a solid business case.”

She also stressed the importance of recognizing the blockers to change as well as showcasing the benefits and managing change effectively to gain organizational buy-in. “Fear of elimination of roles, lack of understanding, costs/resources, and ethical/legal considerations are significant barriers. You have to showcase examples of what your team can do with the time saved. Plan, communicate, involve the team, and bring people along for the evolution.”

 

Thank you to everyone who joined our events, especially our speakers and panelists! We look forward to continuing the conversations at our events later this year. Learn more here.

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This blog post was written by:

Jay Tocco
Content Manager
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