There are five key priorities that CFOs must consider while navigating the post-pandemic business landscape, said Tricor Group and FutureCFO when releasing recently results of a survey of 600 CFOs worldwide.
The inaugural CFO Insights Survey 2021 sampled a cross-section of CFOs from startups, SMEs, MNCs and listed companies in the private sector globally with a concentration on the key Asia Pacific economies of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, the two organisations noted.
The key CFO priorities
The five key priorities that CFOs must consider are as follows:
- Recalibrate operations to make organisations more resilient. When CFOs globally were asked what their top priority was for 2021, recalibration earned the top spot with one in four CFOs noting its utmost importance.
- Identify areas where the highest operational efficiencies can be achieved. For example, 13% of CFOs surveyed identified reducing exposure to office leases and utility costs as key components of their cost-cutting strategies in 2021.
- Outsource processes to third-party partners that deliver economies of scale, efficiently process data and tap digital talent. Nearly half of CFOs surveyed (44%) revealed they would consider outsourcing several non-core functions, including accounting and payment processing, payroll and HR administration, tax compliance, corporate secretarial services, internal audit and regulatory compliance.
- Accelerate digital transformation efforts. Many organisations expect remote work to continue post-pandemic. To support hybrid environments and unlock the benefits of virtualisation, companies will need to digitalise functions such as customer service, supply chain management, finance, human resources and payment processing.
- Detect more functions that could benefit from third-party outsourcing. The majority of respondents (21%) indicated that accounting and payment processing are the most likely functions they would outsource, followed closely by tax compliance, HR and corporate secretarial.
Other survey highlights
The study also highlights unique takeaways in the economies of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, the two organisations pointed out.
China’s V-shaped recovery is fuelling optimism. With COVID-19 mostly under control in the country, a 69% majority of nearly 100 firms surveyed in China now expect their businesses to perform better or significantly better in 2021 compared to 2020.
Pivots in operations are still on the table in Hong Kong. When asked about their priorities for 2021, 28% of the CFOs and senior finance leaders we surveyed in Hong Kong said they will recalibrate operations to make their businesses more resilient. This ranked ahead of other priorities such as adapting sales and marketing for more revenue and reviewing people resources.
Cautious optimism prevails in Malaysia. Just over half (54%) of the CFOs polled in Malaysia expect business in 2021 to be “better than” 2020 and 11% expect it to be “significantly better,” compared to 62% and 15%, respectively, in neighbouring Singapore.
Businesses in Singapore are thinking about remote work opportunities beyond the pandemic. More than a third (34%) of the CFOs and finance leaders surveyed in Singapore reported that reducing exposure to office leases and utility costs would be their top priority when reviewing operating expenses. Notably, this was not the case in Hong Kong despite both cities’ costly commercial real estate, implying that firms in Singapore are more likely to adopt longer-term remote work arrangements.
CFOs are shifting the focus to positioning organisations for seizing opportunities in the rebound as they approach recovery, said Wendy Wang, Group Chief Financial Officer & Group Chief Operating Officer of Tricor Group.
“As concerns about cash preservation are addressed, the CFO will focus on ensuring that the company is positioned to operate effectively in the next normal,” Wang pointed out.
“This involves making operational improvements to raise productivity, revising the investment portfolio and bolstering the finance function’s capabilities. Notably, continuous digitisation is core to success in these areas,” she added.