Beyond The Final Frontier Of Finance
In the past two months, we’ve discussed how the CFO can transform the finance function in my latest series about Finance Transformation. We’ve discussed how to fix the basics by among other things using new systems. We also took a look at Big Data and how to get the most value from it. Last but not least, we’ve debated how Business Finance and Finance Business Partners are where Finance meets the business to accelerate value creation. Now the time has come to look beyond all that and into the future of Finance. What’s beyond the current end game of Finance where transactions are outsourced or offshored and in some cases even automated, analytics is system driven and frontline interactions are left in the hands of the few finance business partners on whom everything hinges?
Finance as we know it will cease to exist!
I know. It’s a quite bold statement but hear me out and let’s discuss at the end of it all. In reality, you can automate a lot of what’s happening in Finance. Most transactions in the future will be digitised meaning that if you have coded all accounting rules and guidelines into your system you don’t really need to touch any of it. That should also limit errors making accounts receivable and accounts payable work without human intervention except in extreme cases like when a customer goes bankrupt. Creating your annual accounts would be by the push of a button as your system is already set up to produce the exact schedules you need and auditors can audit your coding of accounting rules rather than the actual numbers. Explanations will be given directly by the business. The now nearly flawless accounting data will flow directly into your analytics platform and be available in real time for the business to use. The business will still need someone to interpret the data, present the findings and bring forward suggestions for action i.e. finance business partners, however, these could just as well be embedded in the business.
So what’s left of Finance?
Will there still be a CFO? What about funding and risk management? M&A, capital allocation and tax? Well, those are all still there. The areas of true specialists also consisting of technical accounting to interpret new accounting standards to be coded into the system will continue to exist but only at a headquarter/strategic level where the direction is set for how Finance should be run out of the system. This is not just a cost-cutting exercise but more to say that Finance needs to truly specialise to remain relevant. Move on from the basics of just providing numbers and collecting cash. Not that those aren’t important but they are simply automated. And the specialists? They will all be measured on value as well. Tax is a cost that should be driven down within the legal framework. M&A’s must yield more value than those of the past. Capital has to be allocated to the units generating the highest return etc. The future currency of Finance is "value added" measured as bottom-line impact. If that thought scares you because "hey you’re not a salesperson" which is why you came to Finance (to hide) then you better make a decision fast. Embrace the future of Finance or find yourself something else to do.
It all sounds so brutal!!
I know it can be a brutal message to swallow but wouldn’t you rather want to know now before the robot comes to take your job away? Wouldn’t you rather want to have the chance to make an active choice of what to do with yourself? In order to specialise you can further educate yourself by getting a higher degree or become a data science whizz. There are still many opportunities to explore but please don’t remain seated. Get up and make an active choice about your career in Finance. If you wait it might be too late to react which is what 1,000s of finance professionals have found out the hard way ever since the financial crisis. Their jobs are simply gone. Yes, the future of Finance might sound brutal but it’s also full of opportunities so what are you going to do? I’d love to hear your perspective! As always let me know what you think about the post by liking, commenting and sharing to spread the message. The end might not be near but the future of Finance looks a lot different from that of yesterday. Are you ready?
For further insights about on-going developments in the area of the CFO please also take some time to go through a recent survey of 700+ senior finance professionals. The future is indeed coming but for many of them, it still feels far away.
For past post in my series on how the CFO should transform Finance, you can continue reading below and further below there are more posts about finance business partnering.
I also encourage you to take a tour of my old posts on finance transformation and not least “Introducing The Finance Transformation Nine Box” which is really that starting point for the transformation. Last but not least, you should join my Finance Business Partner Forum where we will continue to discuss this topic.
Anders Liu-Lindberg is the Senior Finance Business Partner for Maersk LineNorth Europe and is working with the transformation of Finance and business on a daily basis. Anders has participated in several transformation processes amongst others helping Maersk Drilling to go Beyond Budgeting and transformed a finance team from Bean-counters to Business Partners. He would love the chance to collaborate with you on your own transformation processes to help you stay out of disruption. If you are looking for more advice on how to get the most of LinkedIn Anders also has a few tips to share as well as if you want help in your job search. Don’t be shy! Let’s get in touch and start helping each other.