Designing the finance function of the future needs strong management to lead change

(ACCA - 27/06/2019) Global report reveals half of respondents believe the traditional role of the CFO will no longer exist in the future; finance functions across many organisations are at a key point in their development

Insights on what will shape the future of the finance function are laid out today in a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and PwC called Finance: a journey to the future?

The report summarises the responses of over 1,100 members and PwC contacts worldwide plus the views of the attendees of a series of roundtable events on six hypotheses about the future of finance which were developed jointly by the ACCA and PwC. The findings reveal:

1.    77 per cent accepted that trusted data will be open and accessible across the organisation between the present day and the longer-term horizon

2.    65 per cent agree that a change in structures will make the finance function virtual

3.    Just 22 per cent agreed that soon new roles, skills and career paths will be needed as traditional finance roles will disappear.

4.    87 per cent believe that accessible, trusted data will drive real time, customer centric decision making in their organsiation

5.    72 per cent agreed that finance teams will spend a lot of their time on generating insights and will spend all their time on forward insights and not rearward review

6.    50 per cent believe the traditional CFO role will no longer exist – to be replaced by roles at the chief operating officer and chief strategy officer

Commenting on the report, Jamie Lyon, director of professional insights at ACCA said: ‘Our results show that finance is changing at a rapid pace, and this is both a challenge and an opportunity.  Interestingly, the biggest barrier to this change is leadership mindset – alongside getting to grips with the technology that now pervades our working lives. It’s knowledge of this technology that’s key for the future – leaders need to keep up to speed on trends.’

Brian Furness, global head of finance consulting, PwC added: ‘The need for trusted and accessible data that meets customers’ needs came out top in these six scenarios, and I believe this is good news – alongside the other opportunities ahead, this is a real chance for finance to develop a more proactive, advisory function, where technology has been applied to minimise the operational finance workload and enable finance to focus on helping drive business performance.’

When considering the six hypotheses, there are marked differences between countries’ perceptions. Only 27 per cent of UK and 22 per cent of Republic of Ireland respondents believed the finance team will be more forward looking, compared to 46 per cent in Singapore and China, and 45 per cent in Malaysia.

Asked about new roles, skills and career pathways being needed, 27 per cent of Hong Kong respondents said this was not likely to occur at all, compared to 12 per cent in China, 19 per cent in the UK and 15 per cent in Ireland. The global results at 22 per cent suggest that finance needs to rethink its talent pipeline and invest significantly in people and their development.

Jamie Lyon concluded: ‘Amidst all the change, there is a temptation to stall – but this cannot be an option. The speed of change for finance, the recognition of the need to redefine the culture and to be adaptable and flexible is essential for success. As leaders, we need to enable rather than control projects, and embrace change as a natural course of events.’

Brian Furness ended: ‘This report, and the survey and workshops which underpin it, show the fast pace of change in the finance world and the opportunity this brings for organisations and the people within them.  A people centred approach is required to capitalise on this, alongside a clear vision, collaboration and strong leadership.’



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