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The CFO Technology Imperative: Building the Culture and Teams for the Future of Finance

In the next five years, according to Deloitte, most, if not all CFOs across the country will be applying the latest in process automation and other advanced technologies like RPA and AI to their finance function. For the CFO and their teams, the benefits of automation are more specific. For example, finance automation is expected to:  

  • shorten business process cycle time i.e. issuing customer invoices; processing supplier invoices; processing receiving and returns documentation
  • increase efficiency in bank reconciliations
  • identify potential compliance matters such as changing regulatory requirements, tax code changes
  • accelerate the collection and validation of information required by internal/external audit teams
  • automate the review of system files to support internal controls
  • collect data required for financial reporting

Building the teams and skills necessary to maximize the benefits of an automated finance function will be top of mind, and for many finance chiefs, laying the foundation for a “cultural revolution” may be their greatest challenge.  

On July 26, the Argyle Group Company hosted the virtual event: How Finance Executives are Re-defining the Future of Finance. The event featured important insights from CFOs who will be speaking at our inaugural CFO Live conference, a dynamic two-day event to be held in New York City on November 13th and 14th

What can CFOs do to create a cultural environment that embraces automation and next level technology, and what will their finance teams of the future look like?   

We asked these questions to two CFOs who are now in the throes of transforming their finance function through automation, and rebuilding their teams for the future of finance. Here’s what we learned.

The people-technology balance at OCC.

Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) is the world’s largest equity derivatives clearing house. As Amy Shelly, CFO at OCC, explains, when she joined the company her job was to be a change agent –  to modernize their systems, and build the culture and human resources necessary to ensure effective implementation and use of the latest technology. 

One of the first things she did, she explains, was to broaden the skill set of her team. “You’re always going to need a subject matter expertise, but now we’re looking at other skill sets,” says Shelly.  At OCC, the new hires for the finance function have a cross section of expertise, not just accounting, she adds. “They’re business analysts, data scientists, have technology acumen, and they don’t necessarily come from a financial services background.”

This was essential in implementing RPA at OCC. “We formed a team to identify RPA options, that were not traditional technologists, but more business analysts that were able to ask the critical questions to help people effectively challenge their processes.”

The Role of the CFO in creating an automation culture

“Getting people on board with more advanced technology will often require a cultural shift, and to help drive that starts with a tone at the top.” Amy Shelly, CFO Options Clearing Corporation

CFOs are in a unique position to have a broader and more detailed view of their organizations than others at the executive level. For the CFO, building the right automation culture involves a lot of networking, relationship building, and communication, says Shelly, and getting buy in-from long term employees can make the cultural shift a whole lot easier, she explains. “We’ve had some people celebrate 35 and 40 years with our company.  In getting them on board with the new technology, they’ve become champions for change.”

When it comes to introducing new technology that impact people’s jobs, providing career incentives helps with the transition, says Shelly. “One of the things that I’ve found to successful in creating a positive change culture is to encourage people to start thinking of ideas around how new technology might open themselves up to greater responsibility and potential promotion.“   

Driving Engagement at GE

“We’re really trying to rejuvenate the finance competency model and skill sets to create a world class finance team for the future.” Anjan Roy, CFO, General Electric Corporate Group

At General Electric (GE), RPA has been a quick and easy solution to automating repetitive tasks but has also been used as a tool to drive employee engagement, says Anjan Roy, CFO at GE’s Corporate Group. Over the past eighteen months, the company has created roughly 200 RPA bots Roy explains. This has provided an opportunity for employees to start thinking about how they can open themselves up to greater responsibility, new experiences, and potential promotions. “People are excited about the possibility of moving forward with more automation and finding efficiencies at GE,” he comments.   

However, in large companies like GE, getting the culture right for change is critical, he adds. 
It requires a transformation in the DNA of the company to be able to see value in the change, explains Roy. “It’s important for people across the company to understand that finance isn’t just a back room consolidation and reporting function anymore, but that it’s really at the front end of the business, he adds. “Automating repetitive back room functions has offered the time and resources for finance to take on more business partnership roles, to help drive business strategy and help the company make smart decisions around product mix, M&A, and cash flow management, says Roy, and finance should play the role of value architect, and digital mentor.” “We have a great opportunity to help analyze data from across the organisation, and help people work with those insights.”

CFO best practices for finance automation:

1. As CFOs, be the change agents;

2.  Establish the right tone at the top;

3.  Build team diversity and identify champions for change

4. Incentivize – motivate your employees to embrace new technology by opening possibilities for career advancement;

5. Work cross-functionally as a strategic partner,   value architect, and digital mentors.

Redefining the future of finance:

Chief Financial Officers are under greater pressure and taking on more responsibilities than ever before. More than just accounting, financial executives must now serve as the innovator and disruptor in their organization, using data and new technologies to create value. Read more insights in our new e-Book: How Finance Executives are Redefining the Future of Finance.

CFO magazine, the world’s leading finance publication for finance executives is proud to announce CFO Live a new event designed for the needs of strategic Chief Financial Officers and finance executives. On Nov. 13 and 14, this two-day event in New York City, is made up of three tracks of thought-provoking talks and actionable insights from senior executives and technology disruptors who are redefining the future of finance. With over 50 speakers and 300 attendees, CFO Live New York is the premier learning and networking opportunity of the year for senior financial executives and technology service providers.

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