Financial Transformation: Now or Never
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The need for data-driven insights and rapid scenario modeling to support decision-making has never been greater, according to the 2023 PwC Hungary CFO Survey.
Although 84% of CFOs are constantly looking at the interests of internal stakeholders, only 28% feel that other leaders have a good understanding of the finance function, and its challenges and see the value it creates. This is a major barrier to change, as ongoing discussions take up significant energy on issues with a huge increase in responsibilities, such as compliance with new regulations (see global minimum tax, ESG) and risk management in an uncertain economic environment. However, the pressure to reduce costs (2023: 75%, 2022: 62%) and to attract and retain suitably qualified staff (2023: 75%, 2022: 64%) are even more of a barrier than in the previous year.
Tight Budgets and Skills Shortages
While CFOs are slightly more confident than they were in 2022 (85% this year fear an uncertain economic environment, down from 96% last year), they continue to be hampered in achieving their goals by a lack of suitable professionals (71%), tight budgets allocated to projects (71%) and slow response times from the organization (69%).
Respondents continue to see insularity (63%), the resource requirements for preparing and analyzing reports (53%), and a lack of process orientation (47%) as key problems in day-to-day operations. Forecasting and properly managing risks are now mostly supported by liquidity planning (88%), improving receivables management (63%) and control functions (62%), and by screening business partners preventively (61%). Plans for the near future include the introduction of some new flexible planning methods (59%) and the deployment of data-driven forecasting models.
Transforming Finance Teams
"There needs to be a much greater focus on transforming and developing the team in the future. Those who 'save' on the development of a new operational structure will still be spending the majority of their finance team's working hours in 5 years' time generating, processing, and reporting data," says Roland Balogh, PwC Hungary's director of capital markets and accounting advisory, who led the survey.
He also highlights that CFOs are missing the same skills from their teams as last year: IT skills, innovation, change management, and project management competencies - the lack of which can be a serious barrier to change in the short term.
In terms of future team structure, CFOs continue to expect a reduction in the number of staff responsible for traditional accounting functions and a rise in decision support/analytical skills, which will lead to an overall increase in the size of the finance function in the majority of companies. This is mainly explained by company growth (62%), taking on new responsibilities (56%) and acquiring new skills (50%).
Even though 53% of CFOs feel comfortable with new technologies, some 70% still use static tools and formats to produce regular management reports. Almost three-quarters (70%) of the companies surveyed are now using cloud-based solutions and complex visualization tools (65%), but a negligible proportion (12%) are using some form of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) or artificial intelligence-based tools (9%).
According to Gábor Balázs, partner at PwC, the transformation of finance requires new skills and ways of working that support companies in their ongoing adaptation.
"It is crucial to monitor best practices so that finance leaders can design future functions that best fit the company's strategy. Harnessing the power of data, strategically strengthening finance functions and training finance professionals can unlock value in the organization that, with technology-driven transformation, can be a success story for finance leaders," he argues.
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