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FINANCE LEADERS FACE A PIVOTAL MOMENT IN THE ACCELERATION OF THE DIGITAL ENTERPRISE

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By Gavin Fallon, General Manager at Board

 

From the many discussions we have here at Board with finance leaders everyday, there is one theme that continues to resonate consistently in each conversation. Finance leaders frequently tell us, that if last year they were focused on reducing the cost of operations, to ensure their enterprises survived the biggest business challenge in a generation posed by a global pandemic, what’s changed today, is they are now being challenged more than ever, to focus on funding growth through new technology and business models.

Enterprises now expect revenue to return to or exceed pre-pandemic levels and expect their office of finance to be a major stakeholder in driving the recovery. The C-suite demands acceleration of the digital enterprise, growth, and new genuinely transformative business models as a number one strategic priority. They expect their finance leaders to play a crucial role in making this all happen.

This return to an emphasis on transformation, as well as managing and restoring enterprise financial health, creates a whole new set of challenges, and pressures on finance leaders which have wide-ranging implications across the complete office of finance function.

Gavin Fallon

If the C-suite expect digital technology to transform their industries and are racing to accelerate the execution of these plans, then it’s clear the office of finance will have to rise to the challenge too and transform at pace.

Last year showed the importance of being agile and setting-up the enterprise to be constantly ready to pivot products and services to new opportunities, customers, and sources of demand. In this context, planning and budgeting previously undertaken once a year, is simply not fit for purpose, as inflexible budgets hinder enterprises from exploiting new opportunities as they happen.

Despite all this, many enterprises continue to run traditional finance processes using outdated technology, in some cases with vital strategic plans still run using basic spreadsheets. Progressive Finance leaders know a change is needed, with more sophisticated insights and planning capabilities to be able to change and keep on changing, plan for the unexpected, and generate new meaningful insights, beyond traditional budgeting processes, to always plan and be ready for new opportunities when they arrive.

We also know from talking with many CFOs, that they are keen to embrace the opportunity to invest in the latest finance technology that enables their teams to deliver best value for the business. Inevitably this means exploiting the biggest asset for business in the digital age. Data.

Data is the fuel for the acceleration of the digital enterprise. The highest transformative value of data comes by enabling and empowering the finance function to unlock and generate insights from data which business leaders can use to make game-changing decisions.

The problem is that the office of finance potentially lacks the expertise to get under the skin of the data, and perform the deep analysis required to drive the business forward. What this means in practice is finance is being challenged to generate insights that business leaders can use to make decisions, but perhaps doesn’t always have the professional data scientists or technical knowhow across the office of finance to make this happen.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The opportunity exists today for finance leaders to democratise access to intelligence, analytics and planning delivered via the cloud, to provide a genuine empowering and transformative experience across finance teams. This in turn reduces a reliance on the office of finance for repetitive and routine finance tasks and instead frees them up to focus on high value analytics and insights generation demanded of them to help accelerate the digital enterprise.

Fundamental transformative finance capabilities need to be deployed securely at scale, this means accelerating cloud adoption of insights, analytics, with planning technology like Board, with expertise in handling large volumes of data, who will ensure the speed, trust and robustness of the insights being provided.

Finance may have shifted many activities to the cloud already but must continue to demonstrate value in scaling processes to support strategic business priorities. Similarly, we know there are many finance leaders who know they must spend less time fixing the basics and more time on leading the digital finance function of the future, but it’s clear that to do so, the finance function itself needs to be subject to the similar transformation asked of the rest of the enterprise.

There is a huge opportunity for finance leaders to play a leading role in shaping the future of the digital enterprise and make the office of finance the natural home of data, the digital enterprise’s most strategic asset. Yet to do so, implies big change in some organisations, including a bold new focus on analysing, planning and reporting on what the future could look like, rather than being satisfied to report on the past, and a shift in talent, qualifications and mindset to become a true digital champion and transform the digital finance function of the future.

These are big questions, with far reaching implications for acceleration of the digital enterprise and the future of the finance function as we know it today. The even bigger question is, are finance leaders ready to rise to the challenge? It’s precisely this question and more, which we are asking in major upcoming Board research to over 500 Finance leaders across major industries worldwide. We look forward to sharing our findings when ready, in the coming months ahead.

 

About the author

Gavin Fallon, General Manager, Board

Gavin Fallon is the General Manager for Northern Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at Board International. Gavin is responsible for driving the businesses strategy in these regions, working with the teams across the organisation to ensure success. With more than 20 years’ experience, Gavin has spent the last 19 years at Board International working in roles including Head of Services & Consulting and Product Director. Prior to joining Board International he worked as a consultant for SDG Business Consultants. With his passion and experience, Gavin is widely considered an expert in the application of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) across sales and operations.

Business

IS SCARCITY OF TALENT THREATENING THE UK’S FINTECH CROWN?

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To be attributed to Rafa Plantier, Head of UK and Ireland at Tink

 

From the Square Mile to Canary Wharf, London has been the historic centre of global finance, with long-established trading exchanges and trusted financial institutions. In the digital era, it has also ensured that it’s moved with the times to become a thriving hub for fintech.

But the UK financial services sector is now at an inflection point. In the past year, London’s position as a global fintech leader has been under threat. Earlier this year, Amsterdam overtook The City as the largest European share trading hub. The European Banking Authority moved from London to Paris. And Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are all competing to win a greater share of the European financial marketplace.

The culprits of the shift are the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, combined with the speed of technological transformation in financial services – disrupting the traditional flow of people, capital and ideas. So the pressing question for the industry is: how do we maintain and, more importantly, accelerate momentum to retain London’s fintech crown?

The answer revolves around one key thing — people.

 

Diverse talent drives innovation

Attracting the best talent is crucial if the UK financial services sector is going to continue to thrive and retain its global position as the preeminent financial centre.

In February 2021, the Kalifa Review laid out a strategy and delivery model for the UK to lead the fintech revolution, covering five key areas. These included skills and talent, investment and international attractiveness and competitiveness. But what became clear was that access to the right level of highly skilled talent was one of the biggest challenges for UK fintech, with barriers spanning both domestic skills shortages and the need to access foreign talent seamlessly.

As a native Brazilian in the UK, working for a Swedish-owned fintech, I understand these challenges as well as anyone. I love London, but we must recognise that fintech firms need unique talent and skills, and such a talent base can’t be met by a single city – not even one as resourceful as London. Not only do fintechs require technology and data specialists, but also experienced managers with good knowledge of high-growth companies and financial services.

As someone lucky enough to have worked with startup and scale-up fintechs across the world,  I understand the unique grounding that comes from being a part of a high-growth global company. That’s why I believe it’s vital that we attract people from across the world with commercial experience at ambitious, rapid-growth businesses — so they can bring this experience to bear on the UK financial services sector.

At the same time, many companies face renewed pressure to create new services and products to meet expectations for growth. That is why it’s critical that the UK has access to people with the right technical skills in areas such as software engineering, DevOps, Cybersecurity and data science.

Put simply, having the smartest minds delivering the best products is good for everyone. It drives efficiency, productivity,  growth and, ultimately, prosperity.

 

The UK is open for fintech

The UK should be proud of being a fintech pioneer and the driving force behind legislation that helped usher in the era of open banking. There is now an exciting opportunity to take this even further. Having access to a diverse pool of talent and skills will empower the financial services industry to create innovative products to tackle complex social challenges, such as better B2B payments, financial inclusion and climate change.

The good news is that the UK government clearly recognises the role the industry has to play in driving growth and innovation. The 2021 Autumn Budget reaffirmed commitments to reskill the nation. With £3.8bn budgeted for skills and a formal criteria for the long-awaited Scale Up Visa, the Chancellor announced a set of proposals that will support the breadth of our sector — from startups right through to unicorns and incumbent banks. This will be essential for fintechs like ours to continue to trailblaze and for the UK to differentiate itself on the global stage.

In an increasingly competitive global landscape, and to sustain momentum, we must keep talent avenues open to attract the best of the best in the industry. As one of the fastest-growing areas of the UK economy, the benefits of nurturing UK fintech to drive productivity, growth and lead the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, cannot be overstated. 2021 has seen a surge of activity in the industry and I am eager to see what London’s fintech sector can achieve in 2022.

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

Jennifer Sims, Senior Consultant at Xledger

 

The world of finance software is evolving quickly, but with many new software contenders entering the market it can be a mindfield for organisations. Many finance teams are already using multiple accounting apps and software packages for bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing to service individual needs. Whilst it may work fine for now, this segregated approach isn’t sustainable for long-term growth. The world is swiftly moving to agile, automated ways of working. As a result, there is a growing need to choose suppliers that can fulfil multiple functionalities within the one platform.

Financial software is evolving at such a pace that it can be difficult to keep up. Changing up a finance solution is a big step and ease of migration can be a substantial factor in determining which solution provider to go with. But how do you choose a solution that will grow with your business and still offer something innovative in five or ten years down the line? The fear is always that non-techie organisations will end up falling behind, but in such a highly concentrated industry, how do you decide which solution would work best for you?

 

Cloud-first: the term that makes all the difference 

You could find a ‘cloud-based’ service with an application that comes with automated audit trails to make it easier to meet compliance and record-keeping obligations, for example. But for a solution to offer all of the many future benefits promised by the cloud, it needs to have been built specifically for a cloud environemt from the outset – ie. not an on-premise built system that has been later adapted. Cloud-first services (true cloud) were always intended to leverage economies of scale, cope with live updates, be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and to scale rapidly, to name just a few of the many benefits.

When we talk about innovation in financial technology, we’re not just talking about software that makes it easier for the financial controller to create reports. If eliminating reliance on Excel spreadsheets is the only tangible benefit you have to really shout about, you are missing out on the real deal. With ‘true’ cloud finance software the sky is the limit.

Finance and accounting technology needs to directly meet the needs of the finance function and support the wider business needs.  When looking at accounting software platforms you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t now promise ‘cloud-based’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities. The cloud is nothing new, but it’s the way that a solution harnesses this environment that makes a real difference. And here is where there is a need to read between the lines.

 

Automate more with true cloud 

Historically, repetitive and manual tasks are typical of the finance role – from invoice postings to expense claims handling – these can overwhelm the finance team. Research by Xledger[1] has found that an enormous 91% of CFOs and finance decision makers are carrying out at least one of these repetitive tasks as part of their job. What’s more, senior finance leads are averaging a whopping 25 hours per week carrying out repetitive and manual tasks, compared with 15 hours for other finance decision makers.

A modern, true cloud finance system can enable your business to automate repetitive tasks and provide one source of truth so that teams can make informed business decisions that will help to scale a business. Bank reconciliation, dashboard creation and reporting are just some of the tasks that can be handled automatically.These capabilities are aiding overtasked finance teams and saving hundreds or thousands of hours a year.

Whilst different companies are at different stages in their digital transformation what is clear is keeping up with the latest technology is fundamental to the future success of an organisation.

Xledger is a true cloud finance solution. The basics include invoicing, robust general ledger accounting, detailed slice and dice reporting, purchase orders, billing, VAT reporting, and cash and bank payments. It also adds process and structure to the enterprise with procurement and inventory, budgeting and forecasting, and project accounting. Users are always on the latest version of the software and with regulation more stringent than ever today, Xledger is ISO 27001 accredited.

Choosing the right provider for your financial ERP solution comes down to whether it has the fundamentals right. When hosting all of your vital data in the providers’ own servers, it should evidence a highly tested security process that comes with backup services as standard.

As our demand for technology capabilities grows and as ERP models progress, innovation will become the structure for growth – and there is no end to the possibilities.

 

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