Fluor’s Yoder on implementing RPA and AI for treasury
Todd Yoder is director of global corporate treasury at Fluor Corporation, one of the world’s largest engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction and maintenance (EPFCM) companies headquartered in the US. He spoke at the EuroFinance Managing International Growth conference in San Francisco in March, and we have edited some of his remarks in a Q&A format.
Q: Why is technology so important to your work in treasury?
A: We have a small, but highly qualified treasury group – utilizing technology is a key component to adding value to the business. Due to the evolving nature and complexity of our business, treasury collaboration across the organization is imperative. We are focused on flawless execution of some of the world’s most complex projects, which includes multi-billion-dollar mega-projects – it is more important than ever before that treasury understands the established and emerging technologies that can help us properly identify and manage our risks.
Q: You’ve focused on robotic process automation and artificial intelligence – why are these so important right now?
A: The machines and bots can perform tasks and make calculations in minutes that would take a human years to do. We are in a period of great acceleration in technology applications allowing us to be even smarter about risk. The two core drivers of the acceleration are the increase in the volume of clean data and the computing power that is more readily available – these are the engines that allow us to run complex statistical models, artificial intelligence (AI) amongst others.
Q: How are you using these technologies in your treasury?
A: Fluor has made investments in some great technologies that are adding great value to the business – a couple that I am excited about are using AI to model risk on mega-projects and robotic process automation (RPA) to improve efficiency and accuracy of manual and repetitive work in treasury. Another way treasury is adding value to the business is in data visualization – being able to make data visual, simple to interpret and actionable is a valuable skill – it is a talent, like being an artist.
Q: Automation is now at a breakthrough moment in treasury – why is that the case?
A: RPA has been around for many years, but I believe the next 3 years will be some of the biggest for the technology – there are some roles in a MNC treasury that involve a lot of manual and repetitive tasks, I call it ‘pushing the buttons.’ I have a team of inquisitive analytical people they quickly get bored with repetitive tasks and want to automate them. That’s how we ended up with RPA in treasury. The reason I see it advancing so much over the next 3 years is because of how easy these RPA industry leaders have made it – you do not have to hire a computer programmer and teach them treasury in order to use the technology. You can have a treasury subject matter expert create a video of a procedure and then have a developer write the job for the bot.