Besides managing accounting, capital expenditure and cost control, CFOs today are responsible for making strategic decisions that lead to sustainable financial growth. Coupling this with the advancement of technology means that CFOs need to address technological challenges too. According to a survey by CFO Research and KPMG, nearly 40 percent of the respondents claimed that their existing information systems were unable to optimally support the analysis of financial and performance information.
Trevor Young, vice president of Product Management of OANDA Corporation, talks about the technologies that CFOs should be investing in and provides his take on how CFOs should balance innovation with compliance.
How crucial is technology in the CFO's role?
It's absolutely critical for today's CFOs to understand and leverage technology. In the face of growing transaction volumes and business complexity, the CFO is becoming ever more reliant on technology to deliver business insights and process efficiency.Within traditional finance functions, there are more and more software products available to help create efficiencies and manage the vast amounts of data processed on a daily basis.
I've also seen a trend where CFOs are taking on more and more responsibilities within organisations in areas such as human resources, business analytics, procurement, and in some cases information technology. CFOs are critical to facilitate business decisions within corporations and as they continue to expand, those that leverage technology the most to drive real results will be the most successful.
What are some technology imperatives for the evolving role of the CFO?
Forward-looking CFOs are empowering their finance teams with sophisticated analytical tools and applications with embedded business intelligence and analytics to enable real-time, forward-looking planning and decision-making capabilities.
From a foreign exchange perspective, any organisation processing international transactions needs to have consistent and reliable data through its reports and back-end systems. This can range from supplier purchases, managing pricing in a global e-commerce operation, facilitating cross-border payments, to managing travel and expense reporting. Foreign exchange is not a centralised market, so there are often different individuals across different departments sourcing foreign exchange rates from multiple sources. This can cause skewed results and create challenges from an audit perspective.
The second area of technology that is key is business automation. If you take a look at the functions within a CFO's domain, much of the day-to-day work can be automated. If done properly, this has the benefit of reducing potential errors from manual processing and it can free up the team to analyse those processes and focus on strategic thinking to improve the bottom line.
Lastly, technology can be critical in managing risk within an organisation. Particularly with global organisations, their exposure to foreign exchange when dealing with suppliers, receivables, interest rates, etc. can be difficult to track and manage. If you have already managed to control your reporting and automate some of the daily tasks, the next step would be to automate or semi-automate some of the risk management functions within the treasury operations through hedging strategies.
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