The top priorities and trends for finance executives

02 November 2020 3 min. read
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Global business consultancy Protiviti has surveyed senior finance executives around the world to find out what’s on their mind amid a global pandemic. A roundup of the top ten trends and priorities.

Protiviti surveyed more than 1,000 senior finance executives from across the world, including chief financial officers and finance directors. The assessment found that finance leaders are particularly stressed at the moment, as challenges come hard and fast amid a fledgling economy and direct business disruptions. From an overwhelming pool of pressure points, here is what most finance leaders are focusing on.

Security and privacy of data

This was already a chief priority for CFOs before the pandemic, as tightening data laws across the world expanded the business risk profile. With many businesses adopting virtual working arrangements, the vulnerability to data leakages has increased manifold, putting security front and centre for 80% of finance leaders.

High priorities of finance leaders. (percentages of ratings with a score of 8 - 10) — CFO/VP Finance

Enhanced data analytics

Everything from business operating models to supply chain structures are changing during the pandemic. Some are changing from day-to-day. For 78% of finance leaders, better data analytics is key as it helps keep pace with these changes.

Changing demands of internal customers

As they gather and analyse all this data, finance executives are welcoming a growing group of “internal customers” – other departments within the organisation that are seeking data-driven insights. Keeping tabs on their ever-changing demands is a priority for 74% of finance leaders.

Financial planning & analysis

Several businesses had to move decisively in the wake of the pandemic, as saving costs, preserving cash and ensuring business continuity became the priority. Financial planning & analysis informs this decision-making process, and is a priority for 72% of business leaders. 

Cloud-based applications

“Having the right technology infrastructure and cloud capabilities is now considered a baseline in order to operate effectively and efficiently and will continue to be as organisations move into a hybrid work environment,” explained Chris Wright, Protiviti managing director and global leader of the Business Performance Improvement practice. Cloud is a priority for 72% of finance leaders.

High priorities of finance leaders

Challenges with regulations

Covid-19 has thrown up a host of regulatory grey areas, as businesses struggle to comply with the more immediate and dynamic lockdown measures while also tackling a host of new data and privacy challenges. 72% of finance leaders are focused on these issues.

Internal controls

In several parts of the globe, virtual working was accompanied with dips in productivity and higher instances of malpractice. 71% of finance leaders are consumed with developing internal controls to ensure checks and balances for employee behaviour.

Profitability reporting and analytics

As output fluctuates and margins feel a squeeze, 71% of finance leaders are worried about profitability reporting and analytics, coming to terms with the new financial health of their organisation.

Process improvement: process and data analytics

The pandemic and all the ensuing disruption has exposed key inefficiencies and pressure points in many a business. 71% of finance leaders are involved with improving processes for business continuity in the short term and more efficiency in the long run.

Strategic planning

In the spirit of long-term planning, 70% of finance executives are strategising on how best to emerge from the pandemic. Positioning will be key to determining who wins out in the new normal and who suffers the brunt of the Covid-19 impact.