Future of Finance

Key Priorities for Finance Leaders in 2022

This article will deep-dive into the human aspects of business planning and the strategic-minded CFO’s changing roles to leverage the tech revolution’s potential in the accounting and finance industry.

Technology has been thrust to the frontlines of accounting and finance, like to other industries, with the onset of COVID-19. It is definitely not the only elixir to solving the woes that the pandemic has cast upon businesses. The human aspect of leadership and management has risen to be as important as tech.
In this article, we will deep-dive into the human aspects of business planning, the changing roles of the strategic-minded CFO and synergising both tech and organisational communication to maximally leverage the potential of the tech revolution in the accounting and finance industry.

Risks & Opportunities Presented by COVID-19 for Finance Leaders in Business Planning

1. Accelerated drive towards tech

Your employees and customers are under the same pressure to digitise during the pandemic. Businesses are pushed to the corner to leverage on digital solutions to optimize their operations to survive. Software as a Service (SaaS) has emerged as a rare winner, especially in this era of remote working. BMC Blog reported some pretty glaring statistics that we have to share with you:
  • By the end of 2021, 99% of organisations will be using one or more SaaS
  • Nearly 78% of small businesses have already invested in SaaS options
  • 70% of the CIOs claim that agility and scalability are two of the top motivators for using SaaS applications.
Investing in SaaS Stocks Source: Investing in SaaS Stocks, Aug 25, 2021, The Motley Fool
The beauty of SaaS in unpredictable times like these is the flexibility that it provides, like a switch of “on” and “off” the service/software subscription when you deem it no longer relevant for your business. You do away pumping large amounts of money into on-premise infrastructure that may be outdated in a couple of years with either security guidelines or technological tools that is ever so fast-changing.

2.Synergising tech adoption & communication

Accountants and other finance professionals cannot afford to work in silos anymore, and tech adoption has to be on pace across departments to sync up and maximise its cost- and time-efficiency benefits. Some have suggested picking a representative from each team to be part of an innovation committee. Its objective is to identify pain points of synchronising communication from one team to another and brainstorm digital solutions that can be tapped to ensure the smooth integration of data across all aspects of the company.
Designing a transformation program Go beyond fighting fire to synchronising people, processes and technology to sustain all the arduous work that you’ve gone through to kickstart digitalisation in your business!
There are also opportunities for greater synergy of tech adoption and communication between companies (company-customer, company-supplier) and between countries and regions. Tech is increasingly less expensive to implement as it becomes more widespread and more accessible for both MNCs and SMEs-alike.

3.Workplace culture: For better or for worse?

Manual processes still dominate the accounting and finance scene in Singapore, and the disruption in workflows with the onset of the pandemic has been catastrophic for employees and management alike. Given the overreliance on pen and paper, there is a need within the leadership team to balance investments into digital solutions and management of the company’s cash flows. This, on top of what we all think of the traditional working culture among accountants. Long working hours and pretty much operating in silos until the annual auditing and reporting time comes – in which its impact on human resource will be exacerbated in this pandemic. This can prove to be a challenging time to maintain both team morale and individual motivation. In this regard, corporates are increasingly partnering with SMBs and start-ups to hear from their perspectives on innovation and collaboration, given their lean workforce and agile culture that they are known for.
Partnerships also come in the form of accelerator programs to build on the expertise of startups, as well as M&As. Lastly, technological innovation often outpaces the adaptive ability of the people and the organisation at large. That being said, training, say tech talks related to the deployment of different kinds of technologies, will be a necessary aspect to complement the acceleration of technological investments and adoption within the company. In the regard of management, business strategies are to be continually reviewed, say by a designated innovation committee made up of representatives from different departments, given how fast-changing the industry landscape is. Aside from competitors, remember that your customers are also under the same kind of pressure to make better use of tech and data. There is also continued pressure to hone your product and service offerings to make them relevant for your target market.

Key Trends Impacting Decision-Making in the Finance Function

Impact of diversity & inclusion on innovation

Beyond it being a social responsibility, fostering diversity and inclusion has a clear bottom-line impact. The Center for Talent Innovation has found that intentionally promoting diversity and inclusion makes companies 45% more likely to increase their market share. Diversity, innovation and market growth Source: DIVERSITY, INNOVATION AND MARKET GROWTH, The Center for Talent Innovation
When it comes to risk analysis and decision-making, teams with (1) members of diverse profiles coupled with (2) space aka “airtime” that is provided, can improve innovation. The essence of innovation is in the ability to see things differently. Unique viewpoints are gathered through the intentional recruitment and inclusion of employees coming from different mixes of gender, ethnicity, background, history, and approach among other factors.
An endnote on diversity and inclusion: We want to share a quote by the CEO of General Motors on the intentional inclusion of diverse viewpoints:- “If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” – Alfred P. Sloane, CEO of General Motors.

Rise of the strategic-minded CFO

We have emphasized before in our previous post that an outlook of the accountant of the future will go beyond chomping down numbers to being more conscientious of making decisions incorporating matters of fact (which a robot can probably do better) and social-cultural factors (which a human does better at laying these into consideration). The illustration below sums up the roles of a strategic-minded CFO:

Most Important Insights for Finance Leaders in 2022 and Beyond

On an ending note, we want to address other resistances that finance teams may encounter accelerating innovation within the organisational culture or technological investments. Firstly, it may seem daunting to prove the efficiency benefits of tech adoption for your management buy-in, but some of these tips can help you to get your points across:

1. Keep in mind the pain points you want to solve and how tech can complement your work.
2. Speak the management language: Go in-depth into time- and cost-savings and how it adds value to their higher-level decision-making processes.
3. Focus on how tech can better hone your product and service offerings: Digital solutions enable the business to manage reminders, make bulk payments, and address time zone differences when the business branches out from its local market.
Finally, keep in mind that regulatory and compliance is not head-on tech adoption. Again, it’s about speaking the language of the authority of creating a more business-friendly environment to breed innovations. Tech can be capitalised on to help businesses to meet the requirements of their local tax authorities. The area of regulatory and compliance also provides opportunities for partnerships to facilitate local and cross-border payments and innovations targeted towards ensuring that international systems “speak” to each other. We would like to credit some of these insights from this article to a panel discussion at the Accounting and Finance Show Asia 2021, which happened on 21st-Sept.

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