For our Senior Finance Leaders’ insights, we harness the knowledge and wealth of expertise in our networks to provide an inside look into the constantly evolving world of work. As Finance continues to broaden its reach and remit within organisations, JSS Search is dedicated to leading the conversation on forward-thinking topics to open the door for discussion on what should be at the top of the agenda for successful organisations and finance professionals.
To start, we have interviewed a Finance Director for a leading PLC, and spoke about emerging financial technology, the digitisation/automation of the transactional elements of finance, and the importance of sustainable finance to support economic growth whilst reducing pressures on the environment.
We are at various stages in the process of implementing new technology for the purchasing process (invoice scanning, automated PO matching etc.), data analytics (building a new data warehouse and reporting capability) and a new core finance system. The benefits to the finance function lie in improved productivity and the opportunity to pivot from administrative tasks to providing commercial support to the business. These also form part of a wider business strategy to become a more data-led organisation, improving customer service and profitability as a result.
We’re starting from a low base, so there’s a combination of recruiting the necessary skills and training / upskilling the incumbent team. We have recruited a qualified data scientist who, as part of his role, is reviewing existing processes with the rest of the Finance team with a view to streamlining and automating where possible. As we go through this, he’s training people and passing on his knowledge. A large part is building the right culture, so everyone is inquisitive and looking to learn and develop their skills.
It’s the link between ESG and finance – how can we, as finance professionals, through our roles enhance and promote the ESG agenda. That might encompass investment decisions (electrifying our commercial van fleet for example) or how we report performance to show not only the impact of the organisation on the world around us but also the financial impact of our decisions. While governance has always been part of finance, and the environmental side has been a focus for some time, the social element is particularly key currently, given the cost of living challenge.
Hopefully, from a finance in industry perspective, the continued digitisation and automation of the transactional elements of finance – freeing accountants at all levels of the organisation to stop being the bean counters and instead be immersed in driving business performance. As we move further into the complex world of AI and robotics, the ethical and principled leadership role that finance brings to an organisation will be critical. As a profession, we’re ideally placed to drive the ESG agenda and how organisations impact wider society, and I think that will be the most important skill set to develop going forward.