The study by Oracle and conducted by Savanta Inc. found the COVID-19 pandemic has increased financial anxiety, sadness, and fear among people around the world.
From the more than 9,000 consumers and business leaders in 14 countries, a significant number said their perspective on who to trust with their finances changed. People are also rethinking the role and focus of corporate finance teams and personal financial advisors.
The uncertainty brought by the pandemic — business disruptions, employee layoffs, company shutdowns — contributed to the anxiety of business leaders with 186% said their stress increased over the past year while consumer financial anxiety and stress doubled and sadness increased by 70%.
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“Financial processes in our personal and professional worlds have become increasingly digital for many years and the events of 2020 have accelerated that trend,” said Juergen Lindner, senior vice president, global marketing, Oracle. “Digital is the new normal and technologies such as artificial intelligence and chatbots play a vital role in managing finance.
Amid all these fears, enterprises and consumers turned to technology not to allay fears but out of necessity. Mobility restrictions prevented them from going out, doing business, and deal with others.
In just a year, technology companies were able to come up with products and services that cater to the new way of doing business and living. Software and services companies developed digital tools that allowed people to pivot and adapt helping them realize that the process continues.
However, there may be some shifts in roles in organizations. Some tasks can now be automated to minimize human contact in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The study found the role of finance teams and financial advisors is greatly altered and may never go back to the old setup.
To adapt to the growing influence and role of technology, corporate finance professionals and personal finance advisors alike must embrace change and develop new skills. About 56% of business leaders believe robots will replace corporate finance professionals in the next five years. The study also reveals 67% of consumers and business leaders trust a robot more than a human to manage finances.
This trust in robots is further asserted by 85% of business leaders who want help from robots for financial tasks, including finance approvals (43%); budgeting and forecasting (39%); reporting (3%), and compliance and risk management (38%)
Because some tasks can now be entrusted to robots or technology, business leaders want corporate finance professionals to focus on communicating with customers (40%); negotiating discounts (37%); and approving transactions (31%).
However, the study found 42% of consumers believe robots will replace personal financial advisors in the next five years. A majority (76%) of respondents are ready for the robots whom they prefer to help them manage their finances by freeing up time (33%); reducing unnecessary spending (31%), and increasing on-time payments (31%). Consumers want personal financial advisors to provide guidance on major purchasing decisions such as buying a house (45 percent); buying a car (41%); and planning for retirement (38%).
“Managing finances is tough at the best of times, and the financial uncertainty of the global pandemic has exacerbated financial challenges at home and at work,” said Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert. “Robots are well-positioned to assist — they are great with numbers and don’t have the same emotional connection with money. This doesn’t mean finance professionals are going away or being replaced entirely, but the research suggests they should focus on developing additional soft skills as their role evolves.”
Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Savanta Inc. between Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, 2020 with 9,001 global respondents from 14 countries (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, France, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Mexico and Saudi Arabia). The survey explored attitudes and behaviors of consumers and business leaders towards money, finances, budgets, and the role and expectations of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots in financial tasks and management.