Microsoft introduces Copilot AI chatbot for finance workers

Charles Lamana, corporate vice president of business applications and platforms at Microsoft, speaks at a press event on February 28, 2024 in San Francisco.

Jordan Novet | CNBC

Microsoft announced Thursday that it will release a Copilot chatbot that can perform key tasks for people working in finance. The software company will first offer the tool in public preview. Pricing details will follow.

Many business software providers, including HubSpot and Salesforce, are working to supercharge existing products with creative artificial intelligence, hoping to make clients more efficient. The craze started in 2022 after startup OpenAI launched the ChatGPT chatbot, which can spit out natural-sounding text or other content with a few words of human input.

A typical company consists of different groups in which employees perform specialized tasks. “We want every single department to be enabled and enriched with a copilot,” Microsoft corporate vice president Charles Lamana said in an interview with CNBC in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Microsoft already has a Copilot for general-purpose industrial use in Office applications, and has released Copilots designed for sales and customer service workers.

Copilot for Finance will initially run a variance analysis, reconcile the data in Excel and expedite the collection process in Outlook. This software can pull information stored in SAP and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Lamanna said Finance Copilot will get additional features later this year.

Lamana said Japanese advertising agency Dentsu Copilot will use it for financing.

Microsoft said its finance department provided input into the development of the new Copilot and has seen some early benefits from using it.

Comparing data from different systems is “something every finance team on the planet does pretty much,” said Cory Hrncirik, modern finance lead in Microsoft’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He said a few thousand people on the financial planning and analysis team spend an hour or two each week doing reconciliations, and with the new Copilot, it takes 10 or 20 minutes each week.

The idea is to help these employees spend fewer hours on tedious tasks and free up time for more engaging work that can contribute more to the company. But Microsoft’s finance employees don’t have to use the new Copilot, Hrncirik said.

If many finance professionals in a company take advantage of these automations, however, the company may be able to close its books more quickly.

“It’s a big pitch for CFOs,” Lamanna said.

Watch: AI offers ‘incredibly powerful tools’ for banking, financial services and insurance industry: Microsoft CVP

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