Top Takeaways from the AFP 2023 Conference
Musings on Payments Fraud, AI and John Cena
I was delighted to attend AFP 2023 on three fronts: as a participant, as a vendor and as a presenter. For those of you who were unable to attend, I have collected my top three takeaways from a jam-packed event:
Let’s dive in!
One of the standout themes of this year’s AFP 2023 Conference is payments fraud, and for good reason. As technology continues to advance, so, too, do the methods used by fraudsters to compromise financial systems. The landscape of payments fraud is evolving, and businesses must stay ahead of the curve to protect their assets.
Full disclosure: I already knew this one. You probably already knew this one. But what really stood out is that this fear is simply not going away. There has been no deus ex machina dropped in to save us all from sophisticated fraud scams. (PaymentWorks comes close though!)
The fear of being outsmarted by fraudsters and the potentially devastating financial and career consequences of such an event continue to weigh heavily on the minds of everyone in an organization. What’s more, treasury folks bear the brunt of this stress.
By my count there were at least nine sessions focused on different types of vendor fraud including: social engineering, vendor impersonation and business email compromise scams. For years now I’ve noticed all of these sessions have followed the same basic formula:
Fraud is a scary problem +Fraudsters are really smart =You should be careful.
PaymentWorks is intimately aware that fraud is a problem and a real risk, To share our unique perspective, we assembled a great panel for our session “Fraud Never Sleeps.” I moderated, and was joined by an insurance underwriter, a treasury practitioner and a fraud trainer to offer real insights and advice beyond “be careful.” Judging by the standing room only crowd, I am confident that treasury professionals are craving real, applicable advice; real, effective products; and real, insurable processes around vendor management and vendor payments.
Good news! We have a free tool you can start to use today to achieve all three. Check out Write it Down: A template for vendor onboarding and change management.
Quick take: vendor management has never been simple, and it will never be simple. Things never are when there are millions of dollars are in play.
Despite the risks inherent in the vendor management process, I left AFP 2023 struck by how few treasury teams seem to have fully embraced the necessary digital transformation to keep pace with business in 2023, let alone to be ready for 2024 and beyond. Many still lag on basic automation, especially in vendor management, which still typically relies heavily on manual processes. As a result, many organizations are nowhere near ready to leverage AI’s capabilities.
While many business functions – notably marketing, engineering and customer service – have made significant strides in adopting AI innovations, treasury teams –who are the stewards of their organization’s financial resources –are often far behind.
Many treasury professionals at the conference seemed to be reflecting on finding themselves at a crossroads, wondering: is the moment to ‘catch up’?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy.
I believe one of the key reasons why treasury teams have been slow to adopt AI and digital transformation is the entrenchment of their legacy systems and processes. People across roles have a tough time shaking the status quo, but with treasury functions, there seems to be a particular reluctance to be early adopters of new technologies.
Or maybe it’s just too much of a challenge to change a culture. It seems organizations often just lack the will to begin the overhaul.
With the accelerating adoption of AI and the increasing complexity of vendor management, embracing technology-driven solutions becomes not just a strategic advantage but honestly, a necessity.
This much was clear at AFP 2023: those who fail to evolve in 2024 will find themselves so far behind that the catch up will be out of reach.
John Cena (yes that John Cena aka WWE superstar) may not be an obvious choice to teach treasury professionals, but his keynote offered experiences, perspectives, lessons, and advice that resonated with everyone in the crowd:
When we focus on being adaptable, resilient and committed, there isn’t much that can stop us. Turns out this applies to wrestling, to treasury and to life. Thanks John!
That’s a wrap for AFP 2023 and my top takeaways. However, it’s not a wrap for fraud, vendor management complexity, and the rapid pace of technological innovation. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: there’s no room for stagnation. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if it’s baby steps.
We’re moving into the thick of holiday season, and there’s plenty of reason to celebrate. In fact, we’re throwing another holiday into the mix: Vendor Management Appreciation Day (VMAD).
What is VMAD? Glad you asked!
It’s our one-of-a-kind holidaythat highlights the tremendously challenging job vendor management professionals do day in and day out.
Yep, we created a vendor management holiday and it’s going to be a big party. We want everyone to come together in honor of one of the most important, sometimes under-recognized roles across industries.
Will you join us to celebrate on December 12th?
Learn more here, and grab some free vendor management goodies.
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