Among the top priorities of CFOs in Southeast Asia, talent is the most important, according to a survey report by Deloitte.
A study of 89 Southeast Asia-based CFOs and finance leaders across a wide range of industries and finance team sizes revealed that 91% of respondents are extremely or moderately concerned with people and talent issues.
This is a marked 18% increase from 2021, where 73% of respondents indicated this concern, Deloitte noted.
Many CFOs in Southeast Asia face talent issues broadly across two dimensions – talent retention and reshaping the finance workforce in the face of increased expectations from the finance function, said Timothy Ho, Deloitte Southeast Asia CFO Program Leader.
“Experienced finance talent is highly sought after in Southeast Asia,” Ho pointed out. “At the same time as CFOs continue to transform finance, including bringing in more digital enablers, the existing workforce will need to reskill and adapt to work alongside next-generation digital tools.”
Other key priorities of CFOs in Southeast Asia
The report also highlights a couple of consistent priorities of CFOs in Southeast Asia, according to Deloitte.
- 71% of respondents indicated that they are extremely or moderately concerned about supply chain disruption, compared to 67% in 2021 – an increase of five percent.
- Widespread supply chain disruptions continue to drive volatility and impacts reliability for forecasts and projections.
- As strategies to mitigate supply risks continue to be a focus for many companies, CFOs are likely to prioritise their efforts in leading functions to interpret and plan for potential impacts in 2023.
- In terms of digital disruption, 70% of respondents indicated extreme or moderate concern, 4 percentage points up from 2021’s 66%.
- Against today’s backdrop of rapid business model changes and accompanying growing demand from stakeholders for real-time financial insights, CFOs recognise the importance of arming themselves with more advanced digital tools to deliver planning, forecasting and analytics in a fraction of the time that was previously required.
The evolving roles of the CFO
In addition, the survey also took at look at the how the role of the CFO has changed.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents reported higher demands or expectations from their C-suite leadership team, while almost half (47%) reported broader functional responsibility compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The roaring pace of change in recent years has exerted a significant – and perhaps irrevocable – impact on the role of the Southeast Asia CFO and how they operate within their organisations, Deloitte observed.
These additional expectations have elevated the CFO’s status within and beyond their enterprise, the firm added.
No longer primarily stewards of financial assets, CFOs must now operate as true strategic advisors – and not just as functional leaders, Deloitte said.
CFOs should take this opportunity to step up and take on more strategic and expansive roles, the company advised.
CFO capabilities and skillsets
The top four capabilities ranked by respondents as important to them within the last two years included not only the traditional domains of operational effectiveness (66%) and financing and liquidity (43%), but also capabilities required for them to fulfil their new roles as strategic advisors – namely planning and analysis (58%) and transformation (43%), Deloitte said.
Business knowledge and judgement was ranked the first or second most important skillset by 70% of the respondents, survey results indicate.
This shows that CFOs recognise that in order to be strategic advisors, they must possess knowledge and insight into the critical business issues, and exercise their business acumen and judgement, and analytical capabilities to capitalise on growth opportunities presented by the volatile economic environment, Deloitte noted.
Advise for CFOs
It’s imperative for CFOs to become an effective change partner as their organisation embark on a transformation journey, Ho said.
“For a start, they can convey a coherent and consistent change narrative, given their understanding of the business needs and long-term value, to tell the stories behind numbers,” Ho advised.
CFOs should focus on strategic capabilities and skillsets that go beyond foundational finance and accounting competencies, according to him.
“This means developing tech-savvy talent with capabilities in new and emerging roles, and upgrade capital planning capabilities, invest in developing analytics and forecasting skills, as well as focus on honing business acumen and shifting from controlling to partnering,” he noted.
Staying abreast of digital disruption is also paramount, according to Ho.
CFOs must continually deepen their understanding of digital technologies and their potential applications for the finance function, he advised.
To succeed in this new world, CFOs will need to embrace change and they must collaborate and communicate, Ho pointed out.
“With one foot on the business strategy and one foot firmly grounded in finance fundamentals, CFOs are the essential bridge between the business of today and the business of tomorrow,” Ho concluded.