• 64% of UK businesses eyeball digitalisation but the majority draw the line at using AI within their finance teams
  • Most UK business decision-makers don’t see the value in AI as an admin buster 
  • While keen to roll out a cyber upgrade in 2024, most businesses are digitising and upskilling on shoestring budgets   

UK businesses are lacking the confidence to use artificial intelligence (AI) for their financial operations, according to one of Europe’s leading spend management platforms, Pleo. Pleo’s research reveals that heavyweight businesses are baffled by AI’s role in reducing administration, with the majority shunning the technology. By contrast, most UK businesses with under 100 employees are AI-confident and intend to use AI for their finance tasks. 

Pleo’s The CFO’s Playbook for 2024, which polled over 500 UK senior and financial decision-makers, unveils that confidence, value and intention in implementing AI in finance operations waned strongly in businesses with 250-499 employees — with nearly half uncertain to roll out the technology (vs. 29% average). In fact, twice the number of larger SMEs didn’t think AI would be valuable in reducing administration. Yet companies with under 100 employees saw the value in AI with the majority saying AI could enable efficiency, and over a third having AI confidence.  

Pleo also discovered that AI doesn’t make the top three list of the technologies UK businesses will be adopting as part of their digital transformation. These are cloud computing (64%) digitalised tools (56%) and big data analytics (43%). AI placed last. 

Meri Williams, CTO at Pleo said: “Embracing AI is not just a nice to have, but a crucial next step for the digital evolution of finance teams. The scepticism towards AI, revealed in the research, must be addressed and challenged head-on. While smaller businesses have been quick to adopt the technology, larger companies have some catching-up to do. Those which lag behind risk hindering company growth and stability but also jeopardise their long-term development in an increasingly AI-driven landscape.

“It’s vital to ensure that AI isn’t perceived as a passing fad or buzzword for businesses. This requires a strategic shift for business leaders, where its application within the finance department is identified and gradually integrated into operations, becoming a key component rather than a superficial add-on. By embracing this shift, organisations can embrace a culture of innovation and confidence in product-led strategies and not only enhance efficiency but also future-proof their operations, ensuring resilience and competitiveness in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.”

The study also reveals UK businesses are digitising on a shoestring, spending just 10-19% of their annual budget towards implementing new technology. This is despite nearly two-thirds of UK businesses (64%) saying digitisation is key to their business’s future.  

UK businesses were also found lacking internal digital skills, with Pleo finding just 1-9% investing in training employees on digital transformation. Businesses are instead prioritising financial stability (74%) and cash flow management (59.5%). Only 16% of UK businesses are focused on tech consolidation. 

Despite this, the majority of UK senior and financial decision-makers (69%) believe they are innovating at the right pace, with 74% saying digital transformation improves efficiency and 40% saying digital transformation lends a competitive advantage. 


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