Strategy

Finance executives told us what’s holding up AI

And what they hope the tech will help with—someday.
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3 min read

A year and a half after the launch of ChatGPT sparked conversations about how generative AI might change finance and accounting, the technology is still all over the place, in both senses of the phrase: (1) Everyone is talking about it, and (2) it’s unclear how useful it’s actually been.

To get the pulse on the GenAI discourse, CFO Brew checked in with finance leaders who attended the June CFO Leadership Council conference, where the topic was omnipresent.

Ready when you are. “Like most finance departments, we’ve started exploring GenAI tools that can potentially improve process efficiency or provide insights to help us create value,” Keith Ma, VP of finance at the pasta maker Banza, told CFO Brew in an email. “What we’ve found is that some GenAI tools being touted by vendors are not yet fully developed and in some cases are utilizing large amounts of manual human intervention in place of GenAI as the tool is built out. I’m excited for the future of GenAI, but for now, we need to be prepared to meaningfully partner with vendors in the development of those tools.”

Safety first. “I am very hesitant to use AI because of the confidential nature of our financial information,” Kelley Milligan Kline, CFO of research firm D3 Systems, told CFO Brew. “Using the various platforms to perhaps budget or project, but not knowing where that data is going, gives me great pause.” Before putting an AI tool to work with their systems, she said, “we would test it. And we would make sure that we’d scrutinize whatever type of agreement [is] required to see how the data will be utilized and protected moving forward.”

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CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.

Rick Clemon, partner at Clemon Consulting, also said that finance leaders need to be careful. “Corporate financial data is confidential,” he told CFO Brew in an email, which means no ChatGPT.

Hopes and risks. “It will take a long time, each company individually, to aggregate enough data to make the tools truly beneficial for taking over the financial close processes,” Clemon wrote. Eventually, though, “it is my hope that AI can replace the manual processes” for variance analysis, month-end reconciliation and statements, improving workflows and “writing the first drafts of policies and position papers.” Automating this work may create problems down the road, though. “These work products will still need to be reviewed by, polished and spot checked by knowledgeable people…For the future generations, how do you know it is right if you’ve never done it yourself?” he said.

See the positive. How different generations will experience and use GenAI was also on the mind of Dominic Alpuche, chief financial and administrative officer at Options for Learning, a nonprofit that provides childcare in California. “The challenge is how we transition the different generations in the workforce to incorporate AI and to understand how AI already exists in their work and daily lives,” he told CFO Brew in an email. Alpuche sees the tech’s potential as “a starting point” for “financial narrative reports, written analysis, or first drafts of board presentations” that free up time and help teams get more done. “We need to get away from the concept of AI taking over jobs,” he wrote.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.