Boardroom decision-making will never be fully automated as a result of advances in artificial intelligence and data analytics, a special webinar on the topic has heard.
Áine Hickey, director of compliance, control and risk at BNY Mellon in Dublin, made the remarks during a webinar hosted by Board Agenda and Diligent, the boardroom software provider. Hickey said decision-making would still need human oversight and intervention.
“We’re away from being in a place where we can heavily rely on an automated version,” she said. “I’m not sure if we’ll ever arrive at a juncture where some sort of subjectivity, or human intervention, won’t be required.”
The webinar was convened to explore the role of AI and data analytics in risk management and boardroom decisions after a new report—produced by Board Agenda and Diligent—found that 60% of those polled believe boards and enterprise leaders “lack” understanding of how AI and data can improve decision-making.
The report, Leadership, decision-making & the role of technology: Business survey 2024— found that 61% of executives agreed, or were undecided—that boards may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data coming their way. Nine out of 10 say that the volume of data has increased over the past five years and 89% say data is more critical to decision-making.
Hickey added that, despite AI’s near ubiquity now in businesses and increasing investment in the technology, there was much work to be done before boards could fully place their “trust” in it. The work should include testing AI against older forms of data processing and decision-making.
“Ultimately,” said Hickey, “I don’t see us ever really getting to a place where you can fully automate some things because there’s always going to be an element of judgment.” She added: “You always have some element of needing to interrogate and challenge output in that way.”
Data analysis skills
AI is being used to cut through the volume of data for boards but organisations are also pushing to improve board skills to use data and analytics.
Katie Hollis, company secretary at National Grid, and a webinar panellist, said internal experts were also being used to provide background information but the inclusion in boards’ papers of a section on AI and data was a “key consideration”.
Responsibility for AI and data analytics is also important. Hollis adds: “I think it could potentially be different people [being responsible], but it has to come from the top; it has to be one of the executive directors in some way.”
According to Alastair Hall, a governance expert with Diligent and also a webinar panellist, said boardrooms would increasingly work with AI. “It’s a future that’s going to look more and more at the combination of humans and AI working collaboratively.
“There will also be an increasing consideration of how the application of AI can support continued growth of organisations with their own products and services, bringing to bear new opportunities, and new avenues for growth, that were previously untapped.”
You can watch the full webinar here.