Microsoft debuts Copilot for finance pros

Microsoft has launched a Copilot assistant for finance professionals that it says will automate repetitive processes and provide faster access to financial data.  

The Copilot for Finance, unveiled last week, connects Microsoft’s productivity apps — most importantly, Excel and Outlook —  with a customer’s existing financial systems to provide access to information using the Copilot interface.

“Copilot for Finance can streamline audits by pulling and reconciling data with a simple prompt, simplify collections by automating communication and payment plans, and accelerate financial reporting by detecting variances with ease,” Emily He, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for business applications marketing, said in a blog post.

The generative AI (genAI) tool can perform several functions in Excel, including automated creation of reconciliation reports – where data sets are compared and validated for accuracy – with the Copilot able to generate insights and suggest ways to address discrepancies.

It can also conduct variance analysis in Excel using natural language prompts to “review data sets for anomalies, risks and unmatched values,” Charles Lamanna, another Microsoft corporate vice president for business applications and platform, said in a separate post. “This type of analysis helps finance provide strategic insights to business leaders about where it is meeting, exceeding or falling short of planned financial outcomes and why.”

The Copilot can also be used to bring data from ERP and financial planning apps into Excel documents, according to Microsoft.

In Outlook, the tool can support collections processes, and an integration between the Copilot and Dynamics 365 Finance allows the genAI assistant to suggest priority accounts and help draft emails with customized payment plans to customers.  

The tool also has integrations with third-party ERP and finance tools from software vendors such as SAP.

The launch of Copilot for Finance is timely, said Moutusi Sau, vice president analyst at  Gartner’s CIO Financial Services Research and Advisory team, given the spike in interest atbanks in genAI tools. Roughly  40% of CIOs in banking have already deployed genAI tools, she said, with another 60% planning to do so within the next 12 months.

Treasury functions have a “high need for reconciliation and we have seen banks often have to customize that solution and build their own, so embedding that in Excel is a great move,” she said. Sau views the ability to conduct variance analysis in Excel as appealing to finance professionals.

Copilot for Finance is currently available in public preview, with no pricing announced yet. It’s one of several Copilots Microsoft has developed, with similar tools aimed at sales and service staff, for example. Microsoft has also integrated the genAI assistant into its Microsoft 365 suite of office apps, such as Teams, Word, Outlook and more.

Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.


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