Why Transforming Finance Matters
Not long ago I finished my latest series about how the CFO can transform the finance function end to end with a specific step by step guide on how to do it. However, there’s a bigger question that needs to be answered and that’s WHY. Why does transforming finance matter? Sure there’s a cost element to it where you can benefit from labor arbitrage by offshoring to cheaper location or automation where robots replace your accountants like I wrote about with Dixie. But in the bigger scheme of things why does it really matter? To me, it’s about both the past and future of work that is work in finance. Prior to starting a career in finance, I had a short stint in HR as I found the people side of business quite interesting. I wrote about it some years ago and about why I decided to abandon a career in HR. The business/frontline/operations simply didn’t find HR interesting. Well, guess what, in many companies, the business doesn’t find finance interesting either.
Even accountants want to make a difference every day
So why is it that the business doesn’t find finance interesting? Perhaps because they work with a lot of numbers which no one outside finance understands how can make a difference for the company. So in this day and age, they’ll say
"Can’t we just automate it like Dixie does? Do we even need finance anymore?"
So there it is, at the brink of extinction, finance has to find the answer and justification for its existence. That’s why transforming finance matters. We need to find the answer to why the business needs people in finance. It’s simple really. The people in finance need to make a difference for the business. They need to add value to the company and help business managers achieve their objectives and be successful in their own right. If you look around and ask the accountant closest to you (s)he will say (s)he really wants to make this difference. In fact, all accountants ever wanted was to make a difference for the company by producing high-quality numbers and insightful analyses that could help the business make better decisions.
Not everyone can be a business partner
Now comes the hard part. How do finance and accountants add value to the company? I’ve written numerous posts about finance business partnering and the value-adding element of finance however not all accountants can be finance business partners or the like. It requires a completely different skillset and they might not even like it. This is where the future of work comes in. What does an accountant that can’t become a business partner do? Specialize? Run backwards to other companies that haven't transformed their finance function yet? Disrupt their careers and do something completely different? I don’t have the answer but that’s the second answer to why transforming finance matters. We need to find an answer for those that can’t transition to the future of finance. Like in previous revolutions in the workplace, people have always found something else to do but isn’t better to have an idea about what that something is before reality hits you hard on?
So I’m asking you dear network. What’s the future for accountants? Some find answers in the specialisation path but that won’t work for all. Others will run to companies that are further behind on the transformation journey but they can’t hide forever. Maybe they’ll make it to retirement but accounting education hasn’t really changed much over the years so even today we educate accountants for something that might not be needed a few years out. What will happen to those new graduates? I’m looking for answers because I feel this is an important topic. I write a lot about what happens at the forefront of finance transformation but not so much about those left behind. Do you even agree that some are left behind or do you think there’s always going to be a place for accountants in finance? As always, I very much appreciate your opinion so like, comment, agree or disagree and please also share the post.
For posts in my latest 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 finance business partnering 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. I have 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. I 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 I also have 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.