AI is rapidly changing the role of the CFO

30 Aug 2018

AI is rapidly changing the role of the CFO

5 Questions with Eli Fathi, co-founder and CEO of MindBridge Analytics

If you don’t know Eli Fathi, you will soon. He’s the dynamic co-founder and CEO of MindBridge Analytics, an AI-powered auditing platform for accounting firms and auditors that is changing the way we ingest, process and analyze financial data. Eli is also a successful serial entrepreneur and an AI thought-leader in Canada.

We recently sat down with him to get his thoughts on what Canadian finance leaders need to be thinking about when it comes to AI.

1. Why should organizations be investing in AI?

The reality is, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming deeply ingrained in the fabric of society. Stanford professor, Andrew Ng, recently referred to AI as “the new electricity” and PWC is predicting that AI can increase the Global GDP by the equivalent of $15.7T by 2030.

Canadian organizations are already a dominant force in the development of AI, and we’re globally recognized as a nation of innovation with purpose. But Canada is not alone in the race for AI domination with many nations having blueprints for massive AI spending. China has committed $150B by 2030; France will invest $1.85B by 2022, and the European Commission will contribute €1.5B. In the US, AI is no longer a nascent industry as VC investments are shifting to mature AI start-ups.

Basically, AI is here and if organizations don’t invest they will get left behind.

2. How are Canadian companies doing in the race for AI domination?

Right now, we are still ahead of a lot of countries. But we can’t outspend them, so we need to outsmart them and be nimble. We need to be at the forefront of embracing new technology because that’s the only way that we can compete globally. Our population is small, so we need agile trailblazers to make smart choices.

3. What mistakes do you see organizations making?

Companies are waiting too long to embrace AI. People are reluctant to accept the next new thing until it hits a tipping point. It took the American suffragists over 70 years to win the right to vote, but it then quickly became an accepted norm with other democracies making similar shifts.

But humans are resistant to change, and I see too many leaders and organizations hiding from it. They ignore the technology and become antibodies in the organization that fight against change. They cite privacy concerns and information abuse as reasons not to understand and invest in powerful tools. Tomorrow’s successful non-tech companies must embrace technology and behave like technology companies. They must evolve and innovate in today’s technology-driven landscape to defend and expand their markets.

People aren’t comfortable with things that they don’t understand, and the reality is that most people don’t really understand AI, so they fight it rather than hiring the people who will help them understand it.

At a minimum, leaders need to know the ramifications of not doing it. They need to be prepared and understand the landscape.

4. Where should leaders be focused?

AI is not going away anytime soon. The genie is out of the box - we can’t put it back in.

Not all of today’s corporate leaders steering the ship grew up with technology. A Baby Boomer who grew up without a computer or a cell phone may not be as tech savvy as the younger generations, and that’s okay. They can still steer this if they focus on objectively assessing the landscape and asking, “can we afford not to do it?”. They also need to build a team of trusted advisors.

Today’s leaders need to start trusting the slightly younger generation to help with their assessment.

5. How can leaders educate themselves about AI?

The 4th Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab, is a great book for understanding this seismic shift. Professor Schwab is the engineer and economist best known as the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

In this book, he argues that this revolution is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to each other and outlines several technological changes that will take place before 2025.