FEI NYC Survey:
--Some Foresee Job Elimination From Automation; Most Find No Cause to Worry--
NEW YORK, Jan. 10, 2017--Could the roles of senior financial executives grow obsolete, replaced by a robot or technology?  A substantial number of senior financial executives surveyed by Financial Executives International's New York City Chapter think so, according to results of a survey by Financial Executives International's New York Chapter. 
"Our poll indicates that one out of 10 persons has doubts about the longevity of senior financial positions--at least as we know them--in today's world of artificial intelligence, repetitive tasking and increasing automation," said Matthew Cooley, New York City Chapter president.  "Presumably these executives will be working to restructure the role to emphasize functions that cannot be automated and to take advantage of free time that automation affords them."
The topic was raised recently by futurist Dr. Liz Alexander at a chapter-sponsored briefing in midtown Manhattan in November.  Alexander, co-founder of Texas-based consulting firm Leading Thought, has observed that algorithms now outperform executives at important C-level tasks.  In a Fast Company article posted earlier this year, she noted: "Researchers at McKinsey Global Institute have estimated that 'the percentage of a chief executive’s time that could be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology' is 25%." McKinsey has since upped that figure, Alexander said at the briefing.
At the event, the New York City chapter polled attendees to find out how much credence they give the obsolescence concept. It combined the result with that of a similar survey of chapter followers not at the event.  A total of 83 responses were received.
A substantial number of senior financial executives (10%) said they believe that senior finance jobs will be replaced by robots or technology some day.  An even larger percentage (25%) indicated they think replacement is possible.  The majority (65%), however, said they believe these jobs will not be replaced.
Asked when the replacement will happen, 8 percent said replacement is happening now or will happen in two to five years.  The remainder said it will happen more than five years from now (34%) or Never (58%). 
The respondents selected the position of director/vice president of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) as the most likely to be eliminated (19%).  Another 12 percent selected the position of corporate controller/chief accounting officer as the most likely.  Ten percent said the Tax Director position would be the first to go.  None of the respondents thought the position of CFO would be first to go.
Replacement is already happening at some firms, the FEI NYC survey found.  Five percent of the respondents said it is underway at their firms.  Another 13 percent said that replacement was in the early discussion stage at their firms.  The remaining 82 percent, however, said replacement is not already underway at their firms.  In response to another question, some respondents (8%) also said that they knew of replacement happening at firms other than their own.
Who were the respondents? 
Of 83 respondents, 11% were employed by companies with revenue of $10 billion or more, 28%  had revenue of $1 billion or more; 37% had revenue of $500 million or more, and 54% had revenue of $100 million or more.  Thirteen percent had revenue between $25 million and $100 million.  Twelve percent had revenue of less than $25 million. 
Most respondents (36%) were employed in industries within the services sector, including financial services, finance, public accounting, pension, private equity, banking, and insurance.  Another 13% were in professional services or consulting; 9% in technology/software; 5% apiece in not-for-profit and in media/publishing/advertising; and 4% apiece in food/quick-serve restaurants and in manufacturing.  Other categories at 2% apiece included energy, business services, services (non specific), medical/healthcare, retail, and art.
Comments volunteered by respondents mostly noted that despite automation, there will always be a need for human involvement and leadership.  Among the comments:
  • "Advances in technology will continue to provide more accurate and timely data, but the strategic decisions made based on that information will always require human involvement."
  • "Due to the heavy cost of banking and finance regulation, there will be continued automation and job reduction to reduce cost."
  • "Relationships Matter."
  • "The jobs change, but leadership is always needed."
  • "The whole Artificial Intelligence" potential is at best a generation (20 years) away. Everyone take a breath and back away from Blog postings on this subject."
Financial Executives International, founded in 1931, is the leading advocate for the views of corporate financial management. Its 11,000 members hold policy-making positions as chief financial officers, treasurers and controllers at companies from every major industry. FEI enhances member professional development through peer networking, career management services, conferences, research and publications. Members participate in the activities of 74 chapters in the U.S. and a chapter in Japan. FEI is headquartered in Morristown, NJ.  FEI New York City is the organization's New York City chapter. 
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FEI New York Media Contact:  Jeff Bogart, Bogart Communications, 914-478-5577; [email protected]