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Imagining the Future of Digital Finance: 2020 Predictions

by Timothy Leger

These are the four key trends in digital finance and what we expect to take place in 2020.

©Igor Borisenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Today, digital natives are creating a tsunami, disrupting finance operations for the better. To ride out the waves of innovation in digital finance, every part of the organization needs to transform in order to keep up. As we close the book on 2019, it’s important to look ahead towards the new decade - understanding the four key trends within the ever-changing landscape of digital finance and what we’ll expect to take place in 2020.

The skills gap will continue to increase in 2020 as the battle to find, attract, and retain workers intensify. Not too long ago, researchers argued that technology would destroy 50% of jobs in the US; instead, there has been an overflow of jobs in the market and a lack of modern talent to fill these positions. According to Deloitte’s CFO Signals survey, CFOs have noted that 11.5% of their workforce lack the skills for today's finance ecosystem, and more than two-thirds of respondents ranked analytical skills, digital technologies/automation, and core business abilities as the most important skills the financial workforce needs to develop in the next three years. A successful warfare strategy to approach this next year is to cast a wide net, re-train, and attract the maximum number of candidates that includes those just entering the workforce, especially in the finance and accounting (F&A) sector. In efforts to close the skills gap and attract the right talent, we’ll see recruiting platforms like LinkedIn adopt newer advancements of AI and analytics, making technology an important tactical weapon in the recruiting arsenal.

The future of digital finance is intelligent automation and RPA is yesterday’s news. As organizations have embraced robotic process automation (RPA), it has become a single, commodity tool in the larger automation toolbox, no longer at the center of transformation and synonymous with process automation. With new disruption, RPA has become table stakes in the digital ecosystem and companies are not just looking for the all-encompassing hero robot – they are now hungry for disruption 2.0 through a proven, scalable and agile intelligent automation platform that can drive better insights, innovation, and efficiency. Whether collecting and analyzing large volumes of data, turning insights into deliverables or responding to evolving financial needs, a holistic automation platform is playing a more pivotal role in producing impactful business-focused outcomes across the industry. The next generation of digital finance will be about extracting the most value at the lowest cost through an automation-first approach, and digital natives will be exchanging RPA for a full, future-proofed wave of automated capabilities.

Transformational technology will create a new digital finance workforce, with an emphasis on the learning worker. Ongoing learning and flexibility are the new currency for a long-lasting career in this increasingly automated world. In the past, the finance and accounting staffing profile was all about finding the right mix of accountants and transactional staff – this will change in the next generation finance world. Companies will need to assess if they have the right staff with the right mix of skills, which includes financial, analytical, technical, and business acumen, along with a desire to learn and grow. A significant amount of mental agility is now required for talent to succeed, along with the ability to adapt rather than perform a certain role. The learning worker is now agile, can think quick on their feet, quickly access information, leverage analytics to problem-solve, add value, and predict the future. 

By adopting a futuristic mindset, CFOs will become the digital officers and business leaders of tomorrow. More CFOs are now directing their financial fleet away from traditional accounting duties. Instead, they’re embarking on a journey toward becoming a new visionary to their organizations, one where they invest more time and energy into strategically transforming their operations. With this, a new cross-functional role is emerging where CFOs have become fearless digital transformation leaders, launching widespread automation deployments and breaking down operational silos to align more teams through digitization. CFOs are now not just financial machinists; they are becoming contemporary strategists, technology experts, data interpreters, and digital transformation advocates who can look ahead and plan for the future. 

With these four key trends in mind, it will be most exciting to see how the next generation of digital finance will evolve and what the future will shape up to be. Intelligent automation will play a significant role to new changes and movement in the financial sector. Systems powered by AI and intelligent automation will soon transform critical finance and accounting processes to match the speed and demands of the digital age, breaking down complex processes to redesign and deliver them better than before. A bright future is ahead of us as we begin to transform the workforce and modernize finance functions, and we will soon begin to see largescale benefits from these advancements in 2020 and beyond.

Timothy Leger is SVP of Business Process Automation and Transformation at Sutherland.