Date posted: 22/03/2018 2 min read

Future of the finance function

Finance must continue to add value in the evolving digital world

In brief

  • Finance teams have a critical role managing resources for both growing and mature businesses.
  • The finance function of the future will look different thanks to new technologies but it must deliver value to the broader organisation
  • The World Congress of Accountants will explore the evolution of the finance function

Accounting and letter boxes

For the past 20 years, I’ve worked with large corporates in Australia and the UK.  More recently I have been responsible for leading different finance teams within Australia Post and am currently the Deputy CFO.  

I joined Australia Post in 2005 at a time when the letter volumes were near their peak - they reached an apex in 2008 but have been in decline ever since. At the same time, however, the parcel operations have benefited from the enormous growth in online business and e-commerce, an opportunity that is enabling Australia Post to grow in different ways.

This period has taught me that not only do companies need to evolve to avoid extinction, but that professional accountants and finance functions must do the same to remain relevant.

Some of the finance teams I have been involved in over this period were embedded within business units, and some provide an enterprise-wide focus. In all cases we needed to revamp the way we supported the business to move from historical static reporting to using data to provide deeper insights.

Adding value back to the business

Working in an accounting and finance team has enabled me to gain a deep perspective of the business and in turn, identify the core drivers of value. Helping businesses reach their goals and supporting the execution of strategy is a core service provided by finance.   

Finance is in a privileged position to have visibility of the end-to-end business. In turn finance needs to use this standing to provide value.

Business managers will ask questions into their mobile devices to obtain desired information rather than receiving static reports 
Paul Urquhart, Deputy CFO. Australia Post

The future of the finance role

As the finance role evolves in the future to meet the changing needs of business, some key existing areas such as ensuring a sound financial control environment will remain important.  There will however be activities that will change significantly.

For a few years now, traditional transactional activities and reporting have been moving away from direct human involvement. These activities are being replaced by better systems and artificial intelligence.

We are moving to a point where we will not deal with physical reports anymore. Instead, business owners will ask questions directly into their mobile devices to obtain their desired information. 

Whatever the circumstances the finance function of the future must add value back to the business. We're seeing an explosion of data available now that wasn’t previously at the disposal of accountants. Our challenge, will be to work out how we convert this data into valuable insight. The finance functions that are able to deliver this value will have the upper hand in providing their business with a competitive advantage.

 

Explore the evolution of the finance function at WCOA

Visit the WCOA website

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