‘Robo’ treasury is one of many buzzwords that have topped headlines in recent months and caused great excitement – but also a fair bit of uncertainty amongst treasurers. If we want to believe the hype, then the treasurer’s days are numbered, and we are all to be replaced by faceless, super-efficient and infallible machines producing copious and flawless results. So how much of this is true? Do treasurers need to fear for their future?
What is indisputable is that an ever more challenging, competitive and dynamic business environment has placed completely new strains on treasury departments and has confronted them with a never-before-seen need for vast quantities of data and speedy processing thereof. The continuing digitisation, cost pressure and new requirements in line with the nature of the markets and customer expectations mean that businesses need to use their resources more efficiently than ever before. A number of new technologies are hailed to provide the answers to all these challenges:
- Robotics Process Automation (RPA)
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Predictive analytics
- Prescriptive simulations
- Distributed ledger technology – blockchain
- Cognitive computing
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
Robotics Process Automation is what is commonly referred to as ‘robo treasury’. In reality, it has very little to do with your average 1980s cyborg fiction. What we’re talking about is process automation involving the use of robotics software, so-called bots, that companies can use a bit like a virtual workforce. Bots are trained to use applications, without actually modifying the applications, and follow rules-based workflows in much the same way a human employee would. This provides automated support for manual, repetitive tasks, mainly in situations where interfaces have yet to be automated and data needs to be accessed and processed manually.
Together, all these new technologies present enormous potential. But where do they actually make sense? How and which tasks are robots taking over? Answering this question also brings us closer to answering the question of whether or not treasury’s days are really numbered.