Living and Leading with AI: A Scottish Finance Leaders Network Event

  • FWB Events

In today’s challenging business landscape, CFOs are emerging as pivotal stewards of investment capital, leveraging transformative technology and innovation to evolve businesses, accelerate revenue streams, and drive meaningful outcomes.

CFOs are navigating significant headwinds in decision-making due to rapidly shifting regulations, complex reporting standards, ESG requirements, and inflationary pressures. Despite these obstacles, the imperative for growth, the development of customer and colleague experience and profit expansion persists and CEOs are increasingly looking to CFOs to seek out and drive opportunities to utilise new technology to drive productivity, cost efficiency, accuracy, control, and business value.

To discuss this, the Scottish Finance Leaders Network were hosted by EY’s CTIO and AI Strategy Leader Catriona Campbell who provided insights into the wider market, discussed the opportunities and risks presented by current trends and gave examples of many of the revolutionary transformation programmes she and her team have led on to date. This was complemented by live examples from Scottish Water Executives John Cairney and Nisarg Hirani, who shared their recent innovation program, sparking a lively and engaging discussion among attendees.

Event summary

Catriona began with an introduction to the history of AI and Machine learning and defining Generative AI as a subset of AI that we would focus on. She demonstrated a live ‘Large Language Model’ with our guests and showed how applications of LLM’s can be utilised. Building on this Catriona introduced the ChatGPT app-store and built and demonstrated a Custom GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) for invoice processing. She gave insight into the code that was used to build this, the synthetic data being analysed and how these custom GPTS could be programmed and refined through machine learning to provide the exact service required – in this instance analysis of bad debt, disputed invoices, debtor days, category analysis of invoice and much more.

Catriona discussed a number of her internal and external programmes of work that have resulted in significant productivity gains and cost reductions, both people and process, as well as the many apps and AI bots she utilises to personally excel in her day to day.

She described multi-functional use, not just specific to CFOs, with huge opportunities within HR, Colleague Experience, Sales, Corporate Development and M&A and much wider. A demo of her own automated HR Helpdesk brought this to life and with it came much debate on the opportunities and risks, data security, the accuracy of the data and what is required to run and delivery successfully this level of innovation and transformation programme.

Catriona then introduced and led a conversation with Nisarg Hirani and John Cairney of Scottish Water who have themselves led one of these transformation journeys and became one of the first organisations to implement and embed Microsoft Co-Pilot, additional applications and a number of Custom GPTs.

Nisarg and John spoke to the group about the need for modernisation and showing the value AI can bring. Nisarg talked about thinking long term and that implementing AI is no a quick fix or a full proof once and done, but instead an evolving process that needs feedback and accurate data to be refined and tailored to your needs. He discussed not just productivity gains, but opportunities to improve skills, reduce bias and increase collaboration and culture.

John shared details on the productivity gains of between 5-6% of time and cost saved so far in their sample groups following the implementation and resulting removal of mundane, repetitive and administrative tasks and how employee satisfaction and engagement had also increased as a result.

Key takeaways

Following a lively Q&A session as well as general debate and sharing of thoughts, fears and opportunities across a hugely inspiring and engaging event some of the key takeaways from the event included:

  • AI powered innovation will become imperative for almost every organisation, if not all.
  • It has the opportunity to not only enable huge productivity and efficiency gains but also an improved understanding and management of risk, reduced bias, improve collaboration and the up-skilling of our teams whilst increasing job satisfaction.
  • Data security and integrity is paramount.
  • Training, rules and regulation will play a huge part in the success of any implementation and adoption

Commenting on the event, Ashleigh Greenan, Committee Member for the Scottish Finance Leaders Network and co-host for the evening’s event commented:

Overall, the event underscored the evolving role of CFOs as strategic partners in leveraging technology and innovation to foster business growth and resilience and highlighted the competing intrigue and nervousness across the industry when it comes to AI adoption and automation.

More About Our Speakers

Catriona Campbell MBE

AI Strategy Lead & CTIO at EY and Chair of Scottish AI Alliance

A renowned behavioural psychologist and leader in human-computer interaction, Catriona co-founded the design firm Seren in 2001. In 2015 Ernst & Young acquired Seren, since then she has guided some of the world’s best-known brands towards digital success, earning a place in the BIMA Digital Hall of Fame thanks to two decades of outstanding contributions.

Catriona is the Chair of the Scottish AI Alliance, a Ministerial appointment. This group aims to promote and support the ethical and responsible development and use of AI in Scotland.  In 2020 she authored a best-selling book ok AI, and worked extensively with governments and clients to deploy AI programmes. In 2024 Catriona received an MBE in the 2024 New Year’s Honours List for her services to technology and innovation.

Nisarg Hirani

Senior executive in the water industry integrating IT, digital, and AI. Passionate about innovation for societal good. Leading on strategies for Scottish Water to be recognised as a leader in wider sustainability, influencing consumer behaviour, and leveraging AI advancements. Holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Urban Water Management, and an MBA from the University of Edinburgh. Non-executive director at Scottish Water Horizons. Champions diversity, inclusivity, transparent communication, and radical candour. Proven track record in delivering strategic initiatives, including leading a £600 million transformation portfolio on track for £1 billion in efficiencies.

John Cairney

John is a seasoned IT professional and General Manager for Digital Strategy & Architecture at Scottish Water, currently driving forward the company’s digital strategy with a focus on AI, automation, cloud computing and advanced analytics.  With a passion for technology that simplifies and enhances work, John believes digital solutions should make life easier for everyone. 

The Scottish Finance Leaders Network

For more information on this event, the Scottish Finance Leaders Network or our event programme as it develops please email

Michael Dickson


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