With businesses embracing big data, new tech and digital media, the role of traditional CFO is evolving from financial expert to strategic partner, data analyst, talent curator and more. With the support of several data streams, James Booth, Chief Financial Officer at Instant Offices explains what this new era of the multidiscipline strategist means and how there is more potential than ever for CFOs to be the architects of change within business.
Five Factors Keeping CFOs Up at Night
Around 75% of CFOs worry Brexit could have a negative impact on business in the long-term, compared to just 9% who don’t, according to Deloitte. Along with Brexit risks, weak demand and the prospect of tighter monetary policies are ranked as the top worries for CFOs in 2018. Despite high levels of uncertainty across the board, research shows CFOs are still highly focused on growth plans, and the level of desire to expand business over the next year is at its highest since 2009.
- Skills Shortages
According to research, 44% of CFOs have reported recruitment difficulties and skills shortages in 2018. To add to the challenge, The Open University Business Barometer revealed a massive 91% of UK organisations say they have had difficulties hiring skilled employees in the last 12 months.
- Rising Stress Levels
78% of UK CFOs believe stress levels are set to rise in the next two years as workloads increase, business expectations grow, and companies face a lack of staff, according to Robert Half. Research also shows CFOs expect their finance teams’ workloads to increase, while 52% are planning to hire interim staff as a short-term solution.
- Big Data
Research firm IDC predicts that by 2025, we’ll see 163 trillion gigabytes of data output every year. And a recent study by Accenture suggests that by 2020, 90% of a CFO’s time and efforts will be spent on working with data scientists to turn data into actionable insights that organisations can use for strategic decision-making.
- Increased Cyber Security Threats
Studies from Verizon show that 59% of cybercriminals are motivated by financial gain and are likely to target finance and HR – areas which fall into the CFO realm – suggesting CFOs are going to be expected to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity.
Top Five CFO Priorities for the Upcoming Year
In Q2 of 2018, CFOs listed the following as strong priorities for business in the following 12 months:
- 49% say increasing cash flow is the top priority
- 47% say reducing costs
- 37% say introducing new products and services and expanding into new markets
- 18% say expanding by acquisition is a priority
- 14% say raising dividend or share buybacks
What Skills will CFOs Need by 2020?
The CFO Must Become a Leader of Innovation: New tech, including AI, will become a core part of the innovation strategy within businesses looking to remain competitive, and CFOs will be required to understand the opportunities presented by new tech to drive growth. By 2020, 48% of CFOs are set to be using AI to improve performance.
CFOs Must Embrace Big Data: According to a report by the ACCA and IMA, the CFO and finance team is set to be at the heart of the data revolution. In order to make sense of the large volumes of data the world will be generating by 2020, CFOs will need to be able to accurately interpret data to generate quality, actionable insights for CEOs and board-level decisions.
The CFO Must Manage Risk Under Scrutiny: As tech grows and presents more complex risks to business, expectations on the CFO will be high. They’ll be required to implement and manage cutting-edge risk management processes within the finance department and business as a whole. A proactive approach towards threats will be key. One report by NJAMHA showed four in ten finance chiefs currently own or co-own cybersecurity responsibility within their organisations.
The CFO Must Prepare Talent for the Future: Prepping talent for a finance role was once the domain of HR, but in order to prepare new employees for the future of finance, CFOs are going to be required to increase involvement to ensure new employees can multitask, show technical competence and handle business strategy. Around 42% of CFOs are also prioritising soft skills as a key element for future hires.
The CFO Must Be a Leader in a Rapidly Changing Workplace: With the consumerisation of real estate becoming a global trend, more businesses are choosing an agile approach to office space to expand into new markets, reduce costs, increase networking opportunities and improve staff happiness. Tied into this, the modern CFO will need to develop leadership skills to not only manage talent but also implement development strategies that work across remote teams with geographic and language differences.
James Booth, Chief Financial Officer at The Instant Group, concludes:
“Today, the role of the CFO has evolved from financial expert to a multidiscipline strategist. In addition to traditional accounting and finance responsibilities, by 2020 research shows the top priority for CFOs will be keeping pace with technology and harnessing big data.
“Nowadays, CEOs expect CFOs to have an impact on business direction and strategy more than ever before. And while the question of who owns analytics is still an open question across sectors, according to a report by Deloitte, finance is the area most often found to invest in analytics at 79%, and CFOs can use it to bridge the gap between strategic and operational decision-making.”
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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