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In this age of unprecedented digital transformation, the role of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) has evolved beyond traditional financial stewardship. Speaking at the recently held CFO Technology Conclave 2023, in Mumbai, Ritesh Tiwari, President, Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry and CFO, Hindustan Unilever Limited and Unilever South Asia said that to seize the digital megatrend opportunity and emerge as digital champions, a comprehensive digital business strategy is essential. This strategy should encompass both breadths, leveraging value across the organisation, and depth, focusing on high-impact opportunities to drive transformational impact.

 

The CFO Technology Conclave 2023 was jointly conceptualised and organised by Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Express Computer from the Indian Express Group. This collaborative effort aimed to delve into the latest digital trends shaping the CFOs function.

 

Other eminent speakers at the Conclave included P Ramakrishnan, Vice President – Corporate Accounts and Head Investor Relations, Larsen & Toubro Limited. He said, “One important thing is how a tech-enabled organisation, under the supervision and guidance of the CFO can enable the organisation to grow despite the uncertain and challenging times that we have today.” He also mentioned that in the present scenario, CFOs are expected to embody multifaceted roles as strategic visionaries, collaborative integrators, transformative catalysts, and grounded communicators. Their responsibilities extend beyond traditional financial management to encompass the seamless integration of cutting-edge technologies such as GenAI, Super Apps, Industry 5.0, blockchain, quantum computing, and sustainable tech into organisational operations. Recognising the paramount importance of cybersecurity.

 

The event also had a workshop by Ekhlaque Bari, an AI Coach and Consultant on ‘Generative AI Masterclass: Introduction and its impact on Businesses’, where he mentioned that among high-performing AI initiatives, cost reduction isn’t the predominant goal. He shared that approximately 75% of the potential value from generative AI lies in software engineering, customer operations, marketing and sales, and R&D domains. He also mentioned that this technology comes with inherent risks such as data security, hidden bias, copyright infringement, and opaque reasoning.

The workshop was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Srikanth RP, Editor, Express Computer. The panel comprised Pinky Mehta, Vice President, Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry and CFO, Aditya Birla Capital Ltd; Karun Gupta, Finance Director, Salesforce India; Sumesh Balakrishnan, Founding Team, CFO, Legal Investor Relations, Cognida.ai; and Sandhya J, CFO, Narayana Health, where they explored how emerging technologies can future-proof finance.

 

Sharing her views Mehta stated, “Within our company, we’ve automated the GST system, streamlined spent analytics, created the CFO Dashboard, and put automated invoice processing into place.” Gupta added, “We recognise the critical role of technology integration and actively use AI and data within our Employee Productivity Platform, laying out our plan for the next three to four years.” Balakrishnan pointed out that in the near future, two technologies that will revolutionise CFO functions are blockchain and quantum computing. Sandhya J said, “Every piece of technology that we integrate into our business requires a thorough analysis to maximise its value because it represents a significant financial and labour investment.”

 

In the second part of this insightful Generative AI Masterclass with Bari, he shared that approximately 75% of the potential value from generative AI lies in four key domains: software engineering, customer operations, marketing and sales, and R&D. The global economy stands to gain trillions of dollars in productivity from the transformative impact of generative AI. However, this technology comes with inherent risks such as data security, hallucinations, hidden bias, copyright infringement, and opaque reasoning.

 

The enlightening masterclass was followed by a session by Kabir Ahmed Shakir, CFO, Tata Communications Limited on ‘Future of Finance in Digital Era’, where he mentioned that our future is destined for a hyperconnected ecosystem, shaped by major technological disruptions in the next three–five years, including quantum computing, AI, cloud computing, intelligent edge, and mixed reality. He advised that CFOs must remain vigilant, addressing challenges related to trust maintenance, data privacy, cybersecurity, dynamic resource allocation, cultivating innovation, embracing a culture of quick failure, and iterative progress.

 

The Conclave then saw the unveiling of the much-awaited CFO Technology Coffee Table Book where more than 22 CFOs showcased how they are leveraging technology to transform their organisations.

 

The unveiling of the CFO Technology Coffee Table Book was followed by a session on ‘Reshaping Budgeting and Forecasting with AI and Big Data’ delivered by Bharat Agrawal, Director Finance – South Asia, Diversey, where he highlighted the critical aspects of data confidentiality, availability, and robust server practices to ensure a secure budgeting environment. He suggested implementing rigorous audit trails to protect sensitive financial information, reinforcing the overall security of budgeting processes. Foster a leadership tone that advocates for the seamless integration of AI and big data in budgeting, emphasising the strategic importance of leveraging advanced technologies for financial planning and analysis.

 

“I hope that all of you enjoyed the sessions. We had very eminent speakers speaking about the latest ChatGPT, digitisation and the CFOs’ role,” said Sandeep Khosla, Director General, Bombay Chamber & Industry, while delivering the vote of thanks, expressing gratitude to Express Computer and the sponsors for supporting the event.

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