In brief

In brief

  • Intelligent automation is an imperative for the finance function, which stands to gain from a well-implemented approach.
  • As intelligent automation technologies proliferate, they can be arranged on a spectrum based on what they deliver.
  • Up-front knowledge of the benefits to be gained, and the pitfalls to avoid, can make implementation more effective for financial firms.

For financial services firms, automating the finance function is not a matter of if … but how. As they embrace new technologies, financial firms are putting themselves at the forefront of today’s digital revolution. Banks, capital markets firms and insurance providers are investing heavily in intelligent automation tools designed to harness internal and external data to increase efficiencies.

But despite the investment, things aren’t always rosy. There are pitfalls. Accenture’s report, Charting a Path to Intelligent Automation, offers an avenue for financial firms wanting to capture more value from their intelligent automation investment.

The intelligent automation “spectrum”

Intelligent automation can combine a variety of tools, each with specific aims. When looking at the full spectrum of options, these tools fall into three categories:

Scripting: Assisting activities

A manual operator initiates a sequence of steps or consolidation of data from multiple sources into one view.

Replacing: Executing processes

Automated schedules mimic execution of manual user’s repetitive activities without requiring intervention, assistance or technology.

Decisioning: Supporting decisions

Cognitive computing or digital assistants invoke AI and automation to change processes, gaining knowledge from “experiencing” and applying data.

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Common to each of these is data and, particularly, the intake and sourcing of data. Financial firms can gain an edge by evaluating the best tools for structuring and consuming big data using a holistic approach. Firms might also consider a shared services model to support a shift toward intelligent automation.

Often, deploying intelligent automation holistically can bring broader gains. The technology offers benefits beyond the borders of any one function: Intelligent automation can help finance functions meet regulatory reporting requirements; provide insight to support the CFO agenda; or reduce the finance function’s operating costs, to name a few of the gains.

Can intelligent automation strengthen the finance operating model?

The finance operating model is changing as a result of increasingly flat finance organizations and larger shared services functions centered around an intelligent automation factory concept. As shared services leaders no longer manage only people—they can now focus on data, integrating bots into existing systems and integrating ideal “human in the loop” set ups to enhance finance processes.

An effective end-to-end strategy requires three elements:

1. Stakeholder buy in

To secure investment and align with the firm’s overall strategy, CFOs should be able to convey the vision and illustrate increased value.

2. Whole-organization collaboration

CFOs should initiate cross-functional dialogue, lead cross-functional teams and build organization-wide consensus.

3. A comprehensive agenda

An over-arching program for intelligent automation can prevent shadow costs. A Shared Services Center model can make implementation easier.

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What to look out for when implementing intelligent automation

Intelligent automation offers many clear, tangible benefits. But there can be pitfalls. What to look out for?

  • Diminishing ROI
  • Source data quality
  • Monetary expense
  • Technical knowledge gaps
  • Potential redundancy
  • Outdated platforms and systems
  • Security gaps
  • Auditability

Put your intelligent automation journey on a clear path

The benefits of effective intelligent automation are well worth the investment for financial services firms. But how to avoid the pitfalls?

The CFO can better implement and integrate intelligent automation technology and tools by adopting a holistic strategy and clearly defining success up front. How will the firm use intelligent automation technology as a springboard—not just for cost reduction and operational excellence, but for profitable growth?

Companies can survive and ultimately, thrive—only if they are able to embrace innovation.

A sound operating model is essential, alongside intuitive knowledge of the skills and capabilities needed.

See our report for a checklist that can get you started on your intelligent automation journey.

Oksana Kukurudza

Managing Director – Accenture Finance & Risk

Brandon A. Rosen

Senior Manager – Finance & Risk

Sanket Sejpal

Senior Manager – Finance & Risk


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