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November 18, 2022

Report on the future of financial functions released

Global research into the evolving role of finance functions finds real-time analysis, and data beyond the financial, holds the key to navigating volatility and transitioning to a more sustainable future.

The new report, the Planning and Performance Management Paradigm, by ACCA and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) in association with PwC, asked over 3,000 finance professionals around the world for their views on the future of the finance function. Overall respondents report too much focus on past financial performance and limited insight to the other data needed for ESG purposes.

Only 16% of respondents said ESG forecasting was ‘fully integrated’ in their financial planning and performance process, while 82% said stakeholders needed new performance measures beyond the financial. Just over half (56%) of respondents said they currently give ‘equal’ focus to financial and non-financial areas, such as operational objectives.

Commenting on the report, which is being launched at the World Congress of Accountants in Mumbai, ACCA chief executive Helen Brand OBE said: “Finance professionals play a vital role in guiding organisations towards their strategic goals through highly uncertain times. In a rapidly challenging economic environment, with increasing urgency to reach net zero targets, finance teams need real time, organisation-wide data to rapidly identify and respond to changing circumstances.

Brand said: “Performance drivers are no longer just financial – sustainability and non-financial disclosures need to be integrated into planning and performance processes to create a multidimensional picture beyond the constraints of annual planning cycles. For many organisations, this will mean transformation of planning and performance management processes and culture.”

CA ANZ chief executive Ainslie van Onselen said that financial professionals have the skills to evolve planning cycles and performance measurement – but development and continuous learning, as detailed in the report, is required.

She said: “The role of financial professionals and CFOs is increasingly holistic and value centric, and accordingly they need to develop new forms of performance measurement for investors, analysts and capital markets, over and above pure financial measures. Financial professionals need to continue to develop the skills to build a business and value case for change and investment prioritisation. This playbook provides tools and information to assist with this.”

The report recommends planning and performance models should be data-driven, agile and use real-time data where possible. The process should be forward looking, with scenario planning and integrated forecasts. Data and technology are key to achieving this and, where feasible, should be integrated in the organisation’s Cloud-based application architecture. This is currently a potential stumbling block, with the research finding this to be ‘disjointed’ and organisations still relying on spreadsheets and not harnessing new technology efficiently.

PwC global head of finance Brian Furness commented: “There’s a huge opportunity for finance teams to drive value and a more rounded view of organisational performance through collaboration, digital innovation and data analytics. CFOs can lead this move by focusing on a set of broader metrics and value drivers for the organisation rather than limiting themselves to the traditional financial performance agenda. To do this, finance teams need to collaborate across the organisation and externally, and become more comfortable with exploring and analysing non-traditional data sets such as supply chain, logistical and operational data, all of which provide insights into future performance. While traditional annual plans give a point in time, a more agile approach to planning is needed in times of uncertainty and greater stakeholder expectation.”

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