Three “Big Roles” for CFOs on AI Going Forward

DEK: A recent UK AI conference shines a light on the CFO’s mission over the next decade.

In early November, some of the leading lights in the public policy, executive leadership, and technology operational realm gathered at UK’s Bletchley Park for the inaugural AI Safety Summit.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Bletchley setting was also used by Britain intelligence as a headquarters for its codebreaker operations in World War II.

About 80 years later, conference participants were trying to crack a code of their own – how to navigate the rising risks emerging from AI’s rapid ascension this decade.

The event, hosted by MBS Group, a leading UK executive search firm, focused on multiple issues, notably the need for regulation and guardrails for the AU industry and how to handle the large language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT that are upending the business and technology worlds.

Most interesting to corporate finance officers was the time spent focusing on what role chief financial officers will play as AI expands over the next decade.

MBS director Thirza Danielson, with help from associate consultant Liana Osborne, broke the conference down in a recent research note and gave CFOs a glimpse of what they can expect from AI for their companies and for their jobs over the next 10 years.

Here’s a capsule review.

The role of the CFO in AI risk mitigation. As AI holds multiple “known and unknown” risks is “especially pressing today,” Danielson said.

“In the years to come there will certainly be robust systems in place to help organizations use AI in an ethical, safe, and reputation-protecting way,” she noted. “Just as all businesses today have anti-virus software, in the future we’ll see anti-bias software. Similarly, we’ll see external auditing of AI being offered, in which management consultancies provide assurance that your technology is protected against risk.”

“But for now, none of these frameworks are mature, and it’s down to leaders within businesses to take responsibility,” Danielson added.

Establishing AI as a value driver. Conference attendees discussed how myriad organizations are using AI to boost efficiency, drive growth, and create new revenue channels.
Danielson pointed to IKEA, which has replaced more than 8,000 call center staff with AI customer support agents.

“Rather than treating it as a saved cost, the company has re-trained the colleagues as remote interior design advisors, who now support a revenue stream worth $1.3b billion,” Danielson noted. “The CFO has a crucial role to play in this kind of decision-making, and in encouraging leaders to see AI as a central piece of growth strategy.”

Focusing on use cases
. With mitigating risks and driving value a big priority in the corporate financial realm, CFOs need to be decisive on how, when, and where AI is implemented.

“There are obvious considerations around risk: the dangers associated with using AI to produce marketing material are considerably less severe than using it to build an investor statement, for example,” Danielson said. “CFOs can also prove the value of AI by picking the right initial use cases.”

Danielson alluded to one CFO who wished he’d used machine learning tools in “real life” business areas before having to sell the technology’s benefits to his board and to the C-suite. “It’s taken me years to prove the value of data in the business,” he said, “but I think if I’d used it to drive sales, I would have won hearts and minds faster.”

Overall, Danielson says the genuine company success stories coming out of the AI sector will see experienced CFOs shepherding the technology along inside their firms.

“Today, too few organizations have leadership teams that truly grasp the topic, let alone non-executive Directors who can ask the right questions,” she added. “Without the right people around the table, companies will fall behind. Bets are on for the first time that we get a brief for a CEO to lead a consumer-facing organization with experience in AI.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *