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Thousands of finance professionals recently convened at the annual Sage Transform 2024 conference in Las Vegas to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are reshaping the finance sector. 

Mike Smith, SVP of Finance and Accounting at Operation HOPE, described the transformative benefits that AI has delivered for his financial literacy nonprofit: “AI helps our team do everything they’ve been doing, only faster and smarter.” His observation underscores the powerful efficiency gains that AI promises for financial operations. 

According to a recent Deloitte survey, 70% of CFOs expect productivity improvements of up to 10% from adopting generative AI tools. At the conference, we saw how cutting-edge finance teams achieve this target in five ways. 

1. “Eliminate the close” with continuous accounting 

Finance teams increasingly use AI capabilities in tools like Sage and Ramp to shift month-end closes to a continuous accounting model—one where data are automatically captured, reviewed for compliance, and precisely allocated for management reporting on an ongoing basis. 

In the past, data accuracy concerns prevented teams from making the transition to real-time reconciliation, but Sage’s CTO Aaron Harris highlighted how AI can now provide continuous assurance by doing the following:

  • Prevent error and fraud through ongoing invoice monitoring to identify irregularities proactively.
  • Securely connect company ledgers to banks and vendors for seamless reconciliation.
  • Eliminate error-prone vendor onboarding processes and smartly verify vendors to ensure efficient, accurate payments.

2. Delegate tasks to digital assistants powered by generative AI  

Finance teams are exploring how agent-like generative AI tools can help them do their day-to-day work more efficiently. “Imagine having a digital assistant around all the time that is totally competent and whose sole purpose is to help you succeed,” Steve Hare, Sage’s CEO, said in his keynote.  

Both Ramp and Sage offer these types of digital assistants—coincidentally, both called Copilots. These Copilots are trained to answer sophisticated questions, follow up with employees, and perform a wide range of tasks:

  • Sage’s Copilot does everything from auditing invoices to managing cash flow, producing predictive models, and generating financial narratives tailored to the business context.  
  • Ramp’s Copilot—part of our suite of AI tools called Ramp Intelligence—is similarly powerful. It can build approval workflows and help finance teams conduct all types of analyses, ranging from simple (“Show me all gas purchases above $100”) to complex (e.g., “How can I reduce costs?”). It can even integrate with other AI bots like Microsoft 365 Copilot to help employees find answers to finance questions without needing to go through the finance team or use multiple tools. 

 

3. Detect anomalies in accounting books 

Innovative finance teams are also applying AI to expense and ledger management to automatically identify irregular transactions.

In his keynote, Matt Vickers, Product Management Director at Ramp, highlighted how traditional expense management wastes time: "Finance teams often labor through manual checks of invoices and expense reports to identify non-compliant spending, a process that's both cumbersome, reactive, and costly. Detecting $10k in irregular spending could cost $114k in labor.”

AI eliminates the cost of this labor for finance teams. Tools like Ramp can proactively check transactions against policies for finance teams. Instead of reviewing everything, teams can focus their attention on just the non-compliant items that get flagged. To save even more time, they can even have Ramp auto-code transactions based on historical data. Finance teams using Ramp’s accounting AI have seen up to 20% reduction in manual coding tasks. 

Similarly, Sage’s General Ledger Outlier Detection system learns from historical data to define 'normal' activity. It then helps finance teams continuously monitor new journal entries and flag anomalies. Using Sage, Veracity Research Company caught an overstatement of revenue of about $350,000 before it hit the books.  

AI also saves time for non-finance employees by eliminating the need for expense reports. Smart routing of transactions links expenses to the proper budget. OCR reads receipts and attaches them to the right purchase. Auto-suggested memos help speed up expense submission. Per Vickers, “Not only do you generate more time and money savings with AI, but you also generate trust. Finance is no longer seen as a bad cop for late expense reports. Software is stepping into that role for you.” 

4. Scale accounts payable (AP) automation

With the help of AI, many finance teams have pushed the automation of their invoice processing and review to a new level. They use AI capabilities in AP automation tools like Sage Intacct and Ramp Bill Pay to extract key details from uploaded invoices, such as amounts and due dates. AI helps them detect duplicate invoices and match bills to open purchase orders  to prevent erroneous payments. As a result, finance teams have better visibility into the status of their bills. They can maintain centralized view of bills, approvals, payment status, posting details, and audit trails, across entities. 

Businesses report saving days of AP time each month with AI embedded into their processes. Case in point: The finance team at Cambio Communities went from processing about 90 invoices manually every day to over 300. Mike Smith from Operation HOPE shared: "Now I can just email a bill directly into Sage Intacct. It reads directly what's on the bill. AI is not there to replace you—It's there to help you. The whole process is quicker, easier.” 

5. Lower software costs with pricing insights

Lastly, AI helps finance teams secure better software pricing and drive cost savings. Solutions like Ramp’s Price Intelligence automatically extract pricing details from software contracts and help finance teams benchmark their price against millions of transactions. It is yet another example of how AI drives a more efficient, trust-oriented model of spend management.

 

Your next steps in the AI world

From Sage Transform 2024, it’s clear that AI is permanently changing how finance works. Sage's CEO Steve Hare put it well: "We are living through a new industrial revolution. The first was powered by steam. The second industrial revolution was electronic and the third was computerized. The fourth revolution is powered by a blend of AI, digital networks, and powerful computing. And if you're not part of this revolution, you risk being a part of the past."

Ramp and Sage are leading the way. Ramp's commitment to AI has helped customers save over $405 million through GPT-powered solutions for vendor pricing, expense reporting, accounting, and more. Using the technology to fix long-standing "garbage in, garbage out" issues, finance teams on Ramp halve expense reporting times and cut accounting errors by 70%. See how Ramp’s AI can revolutionize your finance function. Learn how Sage and Ramp integrate here.

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Lead Channel Partner Marketer, Ramp
Egbert leads Ramp's channel partner marketing across independent software vendors (ISVs), consulting, and more. Prior to Ramp, Egbert was a partner marketing leader at Microsoft and a business analyst at McKinsey & Company. He received his MBA at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and LL.B/LL.M. at National Taiwan University.
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