Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi
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September/October 2018

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The rise of the reasonable treasurer

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw

With conference season well under way, few could fail to notice the pre-occupation of the event organisers with the march of technology.

With the promise of robotic process automation (RPA) to take care of low-value repetitive tasks, and artificial intelligence (AI) set to handle decision-making using infinitely complex sources of data, it might start to feel a little like treasury as a profession could disappear in a few decades.

The same could be said for other professions, especially the legal trade where RPA and AI are already helping practitioners sift through many more documents than they otherwise would have the capacity to do.

As events around the world gather the experts and the evidence, there is a mounting sense that the pace is picking up. Whilst few if any treasurers would claim to be using AI and RPA on an everyday basis, the level of media-driven discussion around the opportunities (and it is generally an opportunity, not a threat) suggests that we are in the midst of great change.

As the debate gathers momentum, in this issue, we discuss the role of AI and how it could impact the world of work. And it will.

Indeed, it has been suggested that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This comes from a report authored by the US-based not-for-profit think tank, the Institute for the Future, and a panel of 20 technology, business and academic experts from around the world.

In January 2017, McKinsey reported that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerised. Even the Bank of England’s chief economist has said that about 80m US and 15m UK jobs could be taken over by robots.

In the treasury world, some will choose to ignore the conversation. Some will see it as going in the wrong direction. Many will be told by their senior management that the money is not available to experiment with such tools even if they were interested. But a few will be quietly making progress for themselves.

Having listened to the experts and seen the evidence, they are adapting their approach to fit; these are the ‘reasonable’ men and women of treasury for whom technological progress is an opportunity. They are not hopelessly trying to control the ebb and flow of the tide but instead they are recognising that their jobs will be redefined by it, and responding accordingly, even to the extent that non-bank players such as Google are being considered as partners in this hitherto conservative space.

With the pace of change picking up, the treasury conferences and exhibitions will continue to keep technology firmly on the agenda. And rightly so. But we are not witnessing the beginning of the end but instead the rise of the ‘reasonable treasurer’ with a lifelong commitment learning. With our industry focus, Treasury Today will continue to deliver the content long after the sessions have ended, helping you to achieve your goals.