Belfast Telegraph

The changing role of finance

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While the finance department will always be required to provide the core responsibilities of operational finance, including reporting and budgeting, organisations are increasingly looking to finance to play a role that goes beyond the traditional remit of the team.

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One change is the increasing pressure from decision-makers seeking real-time business insight to create value, drive efficiency, and ensure compliance.

Furthermore, finance is also expected to meet the demands of stakeholders interested in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Sustainability.

The finance function needs to protect the organisation by ensuring the appropriate controls are in place. This includes making sure these are effective at identifying and mitigating the risks faced by the organisation, and that they adhere to relevant compliance responsibilities. These controls should be integrated into all business operations, enabled by a robust governance framework and based on a culture of ethics.

An ESG report includes vital information about an organisation’s ESG impact, and enables organisations to be more transparent about the risks and opportunities it faces in these areas. It is a communication tool that plays an important role in convincing investors, customers, and the general public that their actions are sincere. The data contained in the ESG report are audited, again leading to increasing responsibility for finance teams.

How can organisations ensure these increasing demands on their finance function are met? Embracing new technologies and upgrading digital capabilities will be the key to providing relevant insights and enabling better decision-making.

The development of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and new technologies, (i.e. automated processing and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)), has given finance teams the ability to move away from transactional processing and data manipulation. They can now use other technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to manage and interpret this data more effectively and efficiently, providing additional time to focus on planning and leading change initiatives in line with the organisation's business strategy.

To embrace and respond to the ever-changing finance role, organisations also need to seek talent with stronger technology and digital capabilities, which could lead to recruitment teams moving away from candidates with traditional accounting backgrounds to more data-driven professionals.  Organisations should also consider embracing the ‘new normal’ to attract this talent, with many preferring remote or hybrid working over office-based finance teams.

To ensure efficiency, organisations should begin to simplify and standardise processes through the use of technology, as previously mentioned, but also by outsourcing non-core activities.  By outsourcing these activities, organisations will reduce costs and increase access to expertise and risk sharing, while also releasing resources for value-adding activities and providing scalable support for future growth.

In short, the evolving role of the finance function will require organisations to reassess existing technologies and embrace new technological innovations, develop skills and capabilities, and consider outsourcing certain activities to enhance insight, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance. By doing all this, organisations will support their finance teams and enable them to complete their new and changing duties more effectively.