Six in ten companies see potential in AI, robotic process automation and data analysis to enable financial decisions

PwC Global Treasury Benchmarking

  • At least 60% of treasurers expect artificial intelligence, robotic process automation (RPA) and data analysis to enable financial decision-making;
  • 41% face payment fraud due to cyber attacks at least on a monthly basis, but only 28% see it as a critical threat to the business;
  • Treasurers need to think strategically (99%), enter into alliances with other lines of business (84%) and have a strong affinity for technology (73%) if they want to remain relevant in the future

Tuesday 30 July 2019 - With continued volatility in the financial markets, geopolitical unrest and increasing cyber crime, there is a lot of uncertainty for companies today; not only in Belgium but also worldwide. The role of treasurers within companies remains somewhat overlooked, although their strategic weight is growing, with 99% of respondents recognising that strategic thinking has become essential. This suggests that the time that treasurers were merely taking care of financial matters behind the scenes is definitely behind us. In future, treasurers will rely on artificial intelligence, RPA and data analysis to provide strategic advice on the financial risks and cash flows of companies, concludes PwC’s Global Treasury Benchmarking survey .


Cooperation between man and machine

By controlling global cash flows, optimising capital and managing financial risks, the role of the Treasury function is crucial in many organisations. Although Treasury has changed considerably in the face of the increasingly challenging international context, cash flow forecasting (100%), funding (93%) and currency risks (92%) remain the major priorities of treasurers. Technological innovation is a priority that has recently been high on the agenda. At least 60% see potential in data analysis, automated process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) in the next two to three years.

“With artificial intelligence, companies can predict their cash flows and financial risks with greater precision. Robots are also finding their way into the finance department. Robotisation can provide real-time updates of various forecasts, based on the latest information from the markets. Man and machine making financial predictions together is no longer something of the future. This evolution will undoubtedly enable treasurers to play a more strategic role going forward," says Didier Vandenhaute, Partner at PwC Belgium.


Managing risks in a world full of uncertainty

Expectations and risks are high. No less than 85% cited currency risk as a financial risk managed by Treasury. Interest rate risk followed closely behind at 80%. Cyber risks are also increasingly on the treasurer’s radar. Although 41% of the respondents say they are confronted with payment fraud at least monthly, only 28% consider it a critical threat, leaving this risk largely underestimated. More than half recognise that managing fraud is their responsibility. Yet that leaves a significant number who do not yet see it as a critical duty.

Hans Candries, Partner at PwC Belgium: “Risk management is thrust into the spotlight during times of geopolitical shifts, market turbulence and changes in financial and commercial regulation. While payment fraud through cyber attacks is on the rise, many treasurers still underestimate the importance of this threat, and their responsibility to find an appropriate strategy in developing appropriate mitigation strategies. Payment fraud risk remains widely underestimated, although its consequences can be very serious. The reputational damage may far exceed losses in liquidity and hikes in insurance premiums.”


Demonstrating added value

Against ​ the background of increased risk and digital potential, the research also shows how the role of the treasurer is increasingly becoming central to defining an organisation's strategic direction. Treasurers must therefore think strategically (99%), form alliances with other lines of business (84%) and have a strong appetite for technology (73%) if they want to remain relevant in the future.

“Treasurers traditionally ensure that financial risks are well under control, but in the future, they will have to claim a more strategic role by delivering advice on the repercussions of these financial decisions. The survey demonstrates Treasury’s shift beyond financial scorekeeping to becoming a valued advisor, whose agenda is integrated into (and must support) the broader business strategy”, states Didier Vandenhaute, Partner at PwC Belgium.

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