Many CFOs in Southeast Asia have yet to begin their finance function transformation journeys though they recognise the need to do so, said Deloitte Southeast Asia recently.
According to Deloitte Southeast Asia’s report “Southeast Asia CFO Agenda 2021: Reimagining the future of finance” — based on a survey of 105 CFOs conducted between Q2 and Q3 of 2021, more than a quarter of respondents have not yet begun transformation in these areas despite acknowledging their importance – business finance (38%), risk monitoring and compliance (46%) and data analytics and management (44%).
“For most CFOs in Southeast Asia, their focus was initially to ensure operational and business continuity,” said Timothy HO, Deloitte Southeast Asia CFO Program Leader. “This year, CFOs are now focusing on long-term priorities to become more agile to support the evolving business needs.”
In particular, as the pandemic continues to demand fundamental shifts to their businesses, it is imperative for CFOs and their finance function to pivot from operational finance to financial insights, and turn their attention to developing new finance roles and the accompanying skillsets required for the future, he added.
Specifically, they will need to take on more frontline roles and become the ultimate owner of data within the organisation, Ho advised.
Enabling a remote workforce
In addition, one thing clear from the survey respondents is that remote working is here to stay, as 73% indicate that their organisations will continue remote working, and potentially use remote work as a means to supplement talent to the finance team.
Deloitte postulates the following three priorities that enable CFOs and their teams to deliver next-generation finance defined by remote work and their increasingly frontline role.
1. Craft the finance transformation vision
CFOs who wish to accelerate their readiness to operate in the new normal will need to understand the mix of human and technology required to meet changing expectations, update roles and job descriptions, and importantly, ensure that their talent is ready.
This requires an ambitious but realistic finance transformation vision that articulates which technology investments to prioritise, defines the talent that will thrive, and decides how best to upskill them.
2. Define future roles
Future finance roles will likely fall into three main categories — Storytellers, Interpreters and Machine Managers — and these roles are likely to differ not only in terms of the skills required, but also in terms of human-machine mix.
Even if these roles depend heavily on machines, they are unlikely to be fully automated. This means that finance talent will be required to operate in new and different ways — with creativity, intuition and judgment remaining high on the human value chain.
3. Decide whether to build, borrow, or buy
Often, a CFO’s first instinct is to upskill their team through training and development in order to acquire new capabilities and build a future-ready workforce.
While upskilling should be part of any future workforce plan, it may not always be sufficient to meet all future talent needs.
But this also does not mean that CFOs need to go on a hiring spree - there is a good chance that these capabilities already exist within the organisation, if not within the finance team.
CFOs should therefore look within their organisations to see if they can borrow or share employees with transferable skillsets from other functions.
In its future role, finance will be about managing across functions, building the right combination of talent and capabilities, as well as owning and operating a strong organisation-wide data foundation, Ho noted.
“Our advice to CFOs is for them to focus less on the pursuit of perfection, and more on continually improving the value that finance delivers to the organisation,” he said.
“As an example, as more businesses place emphasis on sustainability, and the requirements continue to evolve, how can CFOs play a more active role to drive the measurement, reporting and management of these initiatives? After all, the future is not set in stone, and it is up to the CFOs and their finance teams to take action, and reshape and reimagine in order to sail beyond the horizon,” he added.