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What does the 2021 Finance Director look like?

26/04/2021 minute read Andrew Hicks

If there’s one thing that Finance Directors can agree on, it’s that the growing number of new rules, regulations and compliance requirements make for bumps in the road. Add in the complexity of navigating what is required from these new standards, and finance teams are increasingly turning to digital solutions for guidance.

Without the right digital roadmap, finance teams could easily crumble under the new post-Brexit regulations, Making Tax Digital legislation, and the ongoing pandemic. Although none of us know what the future holds, these key challenges look set to continue to influence the way finance teams work in the near-term.

While 2020 saw Finance Directors reacting to urgent change, 2021 is about strengthening these new business infrastructures through agility, collaboration and digital transformation.

Evolution of the Finance Director

The Finance Director of the past was accustomed to retrospectively reviewing financial performance, co-ordinating monthly updates and overseeing manual processes with finance teams dedicated to administration tasks.

It’s been extremely tough for Finance Directors and their teams navigating the last 12 months. Keeping up with the numbers through the pandemic with demand from directors and the board for day-to-day finance updates

This is because the pandemic pushed Finance Directors to become agile and make quicker decisions, with revised budgeting, forecasting and scenario planning crucial for business survival. Real-time daily reports have played a paramount role in decision making over the last 12 months.

No longer ‘score keepers’ looking at things in hindsight, Finance Directors are increasingly seen as strategic business leaders with a remit more like the Chief Operating Officer (COO).

“For organisations to survive and thrive in the world the pandemic has created, the finance director must remain in the strategic seat and be an agent for change.” – Tim Adler

Digital transformation in finance

The digitalisation of finance systems and Cloud software has empowered finance teams to work remotely and flexibly. Ongoing digital transformation should be focused on where the need is greatest within organisations. For example, finance teams that still heavily rely on manual processes need to speed up the deployment of digital solutions as the ‘new normal’ of the future takes shape.

Leveraging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can improve finance team productivity by alleviating manual tasks and producing real-time financial data analysis. This has allowed Finance Directors to provide much more oversight of HR, procurement, technology and other key areas of the business.

With finance automation in place, Finance Directors have become proactive rather than reactive to business disruption. The focus is now on high value tasks such as building stronger relationships with businesses leaders, understanding and challenging business strategy, offering solutions and providing up-to-date financial reporting and accounting.

A finance and accounting system with the right tools can help to navigate the complexity of the situation we are all in right now. Assembling the right technology to automate manual tasks positions Finance Directors to build for business recovery and long-term success.

How Covid changed the role of the Finance Director forever

Covid-19 has accelerated the trend for the Finance Director to become more of a strategic adviser, assuming much of what used to be the COO role. But to do that they need to summon up accurate, real-time financial data kept in the Cloud.

Leading finance journalist and author Tim Adler, in partnership with Advanced, has written a whitepaper discussing the impact of the pandemic on Finance Directors.

Many of the barriers and much of the resistance to digital transformation have been swept away in the last year. In our latest Trends Survey Report, more than three quarters of business leaders said one of the legacies of Covid-19 will be to shift their organisation to a digital-first mindset.

The increasingly agile ways of working can empower Finance Directors and their teams. Tim also looks at how recent events are creating deeper and more geographically diverse talent pools for finance departments in the UK to draw on.


About the author

Tim Adler is the editor of Small Business, the top website for SMEs in Britain, which last year was named alongside the BBC and the Daily Telegraph for its excellence in journalism. He is a former commissioning editor at the Telegraph, and has also written for the Financial Times and the Times.