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Banking CFOs need to step up efforts in ESG, automation and crypto support - Accenture study

Mon 12 Jul 2021

The role of the banking CFO is changing - and disruption management will be key to their success, according to a recent study from Accenture.

Increasing investment in technology means that CFOs need to take a strategic approach to their business support, rather than trying to close the books on finances.

Accenture’s study of 1,300 senior finance leaders found that banking CFOs will face challenges such as sustainability reporting, technology investment, and cryptocurrency-related disruption.

According to the Breakout Speed report, 49% of banking CFOs say that one of their major focus points over the last two years has been how to identify and unlock value.

However, there is also a growing urgency to digitalise within finance and recognise new challenges such as remote working and agile working.

According to 77% of CFOs, the finance function will support new ways of working in the enterprise. The pandemic has played a significant part in making this change a reality, but there is more to come. 

Accenture’s strategy and consulting managing director Ambrose Shannon says, “CFOs are putting in place the control and assurance structures required to enable continued remote working.

“On a more positive note, they see huge potential in being able to access talent from around the globe, as opposed to only the cities in which they have physical offices. This will help in finding new skills, such as analytics, which are in short supply in most markets.”

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability reporting will also come under greater scrutiny. This means finance teams will be expected to meet global standards such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). 

The report states that 72% of finance leaders believe finance is ultimately responsible for ESG in their enterprise. Finance must also be able to capture, check, and report large amounts of unstructured data. 

“This is a major ask,” says Shannon. “Among all C-suite executives, the CFO is the logical choice to drive the agenda across the three Rs of risk, regulation and returns.

“This means implementing measurement, analytics and reporting capabilities focused on the impact of ESG-related topics on the enterprise. There are huge implications for the profitability of many existing business models.”

The report also analyses the relationship that banking CFOs have with technology - 38% are likely to use technology to enable cost efficiencies, while 26% use it to support growth and 20% use it to provide new insights. 

Cryptocurrency-related disruption is also close on the horizon, however, 72% of CFOs admit that their business systems are not ready to shift to cryptocurrencies and virtual. 

Banking CFOs do, however, recognise the advantages of automation. The report states, “To prepare for the future, extra consideration should be given to advanced analytics and machine learning, and how these technologies can enhance FP&A and other areas of finance.” 

Accenture recommends that organisations take a predictive stance towards ESG, automate to enhance compliance, and embed new skills into finance to support people and new technologies.

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