Security and data analytics the top priorities for finance

25 September 2019 3 min. read

Global consulting firm Protiviti has released its annual ‘Finance Trends Survey’ report, which sheds light on the most important trends and priorities of finance departments.

The study finds that understandably, security and data privacy are ranked as a top priority by the 800+ chief financial officers and (senior) finance managers that participated in the survey. 

“A data breach – whether related to financial or nonfinancial data – can have severe financial and reputational ramifications,” said Chris Wright, a managing director at Protiviti. The issue here is that unlike other financial-related risks and controls, finance leaders rely on others – IT and security teams – for their cybersecurity defences. 

“As cyber risks increase, finance leaders must adequately budget, allocate resources and prioritise company-wide security and data protection measures,” added Wright.

Security and data analytics the top priorities for finance

The second most-cited priority is data analytics. The value of analytics can relate to two areas, the first being the support of the strategic remit of finance. Wright notes, “The data driven nature of today’s finance function makes the CFO invaluable in setting and executing the company’s strategy, especially when it comes to forecasting trends or managing government and regulatory relationships. These finance leaders are no longer siloed to financial and operational issues; rather they’re expected to deliver insights and analysis that help shape critical business decisions.”

At the same time, analytics can prove essential in unlocking operational insights. Risk analytics can for instance increase trustworthiness, forensic analytics can bolster financial crime tracking, and regulatory analytics can take compliance to the next level. Across its operation,s unleashing analytics on finance business processes has the potential to unlock major efficiencies. 

Changing demands

Meeting the changing demands and expectations of internal customers is also a top area driving change. CFOs and finance managers realise that failing to address the needs of internal customers could result in a failure to meet the business's strategic objectives. In doing so, they are aiming to embrace a more strategic mindset and data-driven business-led operating model. 

As a result of the changing demands and expectations of their internal customers, six out of ten finance leaders plan to increase the finance function’s employee count in the next year. This comes on top of the workforce efficiencies which have been earmarked through use of technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) – 28% of the survey respondents have indicated that they expect to decrease labour work through RPA. 

Security and data analytics the top priorities for finance

Alongside robotic process automation, embracing other emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (Al), blockchain, predictive analytics and cloud-based applications, are central to advancing both effectiveness and efficiency.

Working with such technologies however is growing the need for upskilling and reskilling. Scott Bolderson, a managing director at Protiviti elaborated: “The traditional finance labour model is being reassessed. The need to reskill today’s finance professionals is placing significant strain on existing talent management processes, including traditional approaches to recruiting and retention that fail to help finance groups quickly pivot in response to changing strategic objectives.”