The CEO and founder of cloud-based accountancy software giant Xero says artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies will be “transformational” for finance over the next few years.
The Xero founder says: “We’re getting a massive hit on the R&D we’ve done around machine learning and AI. We think it’s going to be transformational for the industry.
“If you capture information from the bank statement and the invoice and the bills that are flying through, you can actually programme things to do a whole lot of work for you and you’re just checking and making fixes, which trains the machine.”
Xero’s accountancy software helps small and medium-sized businesses manage their accountants in the cloud but Drury believes much of the management — things like categorizing expenditure and sending accounts to be checked — could be automated by “smart” AI and machine learning programmes, which learn the habits of your business. “You can build unique system for each business,” says Drury.
“The first innovation in cloud accounting was actually getting these transactions into the cloud. The second generation that’s happening now is getting all these big data, machine learning, AI, over these massive data sets which is super interesting.”
Gary Turner, Xero’s UK MD, added: “Specialised AI is, I think, much more interesting. We’re taking a discreet function or process that either doesn’t exist today because someone hasn’t had access to such a large data set or automating what was previously important but not really value additive, tasks like accounting.”
Drury, who founded Xero in New Zealand in 2006, says the benefits of AI and machine learning technologies will be felt in the wider finance world too.
“We’re getting a fantastic hit because the fintech space is a relatively small domain with massive amounts of data and it’s inherently high value. I think it’s going to be one of the areas where you see AI and machine learning really take off. The ability to reduce risk for banks, fraud reduction.”
There has been a surge in interest in AI over the last few years with tech giants like Google and Facebook investing hundreds of millions into the field in a bid to make their platforms and personal assistants smarter.