How automation can help to drive business success

Attributed to Ruchi Sharma, VP of Commercial Services, American Express

The pace of digital transformation in finance departments continues to accelerate. From the rapid growth in data volumes to increasing regulatory pressures, finance teams today face greater complexity than ever before.

Yet manual, error-prone processes can limit their ability to harness relevant insights and drive strategic decisions. The solution lies in the automation and digitisation of payments processes, which promise improved accuracy, faster processing, enhanced compliance monitoring, and more integrated analytics to help finance leaders drive their business forward.

Optimising through automation

American Express’ research reveals that nearly seven in 10 (69%) UK businesses say they are either considering or already using automated payments to improve efficiency, reduce administration, and give time back to finance teams to be more strategic.[1]

And their business customers are on board with this transformation, too. 40% of UK finance leaders say their customers find digital and automated payment methods to be the most valuable compared to other options, such as bank transfers or cheques.

Real-time payment networks are bringing visibility, speed, and rich transaction data to the finance function. When integrated with automated reconciliation and cash flow forecasting tools, these can generate predictive insights and improved working capital management.

These technologies can be optimised through automation. But how exactly does automation complement and enhance their potential?

How automation sets finance teams up for success

Automation plays a key role in optimising cash management, limiting manual errors, and enhancing the quality of financial decision-making.

Of the UK businesses that have already adopted or plan on adopting automated payments, one-third (32%) reported lower operating costs, suggesting that automation leads to a positive return on investment in the long term. A quarter (26%) also state it supports better customer and supplier relationships – which has a powerful impact on a businesses’ resilience and ability to grow.

Larger companies are leading the charge as early adopters of end-to-end automated payments – 40% of finance leaders at large UK businesses said they had adopted them in the last 24 months, compared to one-fifth (21%) of SME finance leaders.

For business leaders who are unsure about investing in payments automation, it’s important to consider the bigger picture – too narrow of a payments solution risks limiting long-term agility, insights potential, and platform interoperability. 

In addition to positive day-to-day impact on team time, there are other, less outwardly visible advantages that businesses can benefit from, including better payments security, that can boost the bottom line in the long term which should be factored into that initial investment cost.

Intelligent automation can help set finance departments up for long-term success. By working with a responsive and experienced payments partner, finance teams can see the return on their investments both now and in the future.


[1] American Express and Opinium surveyed 750 respondents from UK small, medium, and large companies, split across senior decision makers, senior finance professionals and finance team members who are responsible for payments. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15-23 May 2023.

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