The CFO’s 2021 hitlist – Brexit, coronavirus and tech

By Marina Vidmar

As we continue through 2021, the year ahead will surely remain centred on the two key themes of Brexit and Covid-19.

On February 18 Advanced partnered with Financial Director to host “The CFO’s 2021 hitlist – Brexit, coronavirus and tech” webinar, now available to watch on demand.

The speakers included Andrew Hicks – CFO for Advanced, Ian McLaren – CFO for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Chris Burke – CEO of Brickendon Consulting (BC) and Tom Lemmon – Moderator from Accountancy Age. Reflecting on the past 12 months, our speakers contributed their experiences on how technology helped change finance teams for the better during challenging times – including managing new Brexit rules and regulations.

Webinar overview

  • The effects of Brexit on CFOs and finance teams in the UK ·
  • How can technology help with managing new Brexit rules and regulations? ·
  • Managing and supporting your team during the pandemic ·
  • Has technology helped change the finance team for the better? ·
  • How has Covid-19 affected the way finance teams work?

How has it been for finance teams during the pandemic?

In March 2020, new working from home requirements saw the status quo change overnight for the traditional finance department. Without the stimulus of office environments where people immersed themselves in work schedules and human interaction, CFOs had the challenge of keeping their finance teams engaged and productive.

Last year many organisations condensed five years of Cloud-based digital transformation into the space of three months to establish new ways of working. Ian McLaren (CFO, GTR) explained that digital transformation was the key to business survival when the pandemic hit.

From automated reporting to data analytics providing real-time insights, his team utilised new technologies to simplify processes. With the help of Cloud technology, the Advanced finance team adapted quickly to working from home. “Working remotely with the finance team emphasised the importance of working on a Cloud-based system. It was a positive learning experience finding new ways to work and stay connected.” – Andrew Hicks (CFO, Advanced)

Getting tech-ready for Brexit

The uncertainty of Brexit over the last five years has seen finance teams updating their existing models and structures to maintain business as usual when handling transactions between the UK and Europe.

Already, we have seen Brexit legislations and regulations inevitably slow down processes that were in place. Many CFOs weren’t properly prepared for the new requirements when importing and exporting goods to and from the UK and the EU.

Rather than a single event, Brexit will see CFOs face a series of smaller obstacles over time. The investment in Cloud-based software and accounting automation can significantly reduce manual reporting while trying to keep on top of upcoming changes.

Speed and agility will be key for CFOs and finance professionals as they weather the storms in the months ahead.

Optimising digital transformation

Technology on its own is not a silver bullet. It requires finance teams to adapt to new ways of working and introduce fresh approaches in unpreceded times to create stability, structure and strategies for business continuity and survival.

Our latest Trends Survey Report 2020/21 found that 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.

“Without technology, we would struggle with budget projection, and forecasting would be impossible without it. Technology allows us to work from anywhere and supports better work / life balance.” – Chris Burke (CEO, BC)

Collaboration via Cloud-based software has demonstrated reliable delivery can be achieved virtually anywhere. CFOs have seen finance roles previously considered as ‘office-based’ are able to be fulfilled working remotely.

Andrew Hicks (CFO, Advanced) advised that CFOs review their existing software solutions to see if they are being used at full capacity, and whether the current technology meets the new level of demand. Heading 4: What is the ‘new normal’ for finance teams?

Before the pandemic, many finance teams planned their analysis and projects around quarterly reporting and monthly closing. CFOs have seen these accounting processes become more frequent with monthly and weekly reporting becoming standard.

The convenience of video calls over boardroom meetings has meant an increase in providing reports, insights and updates to key stakeholders on a more frequent basis. Cloud technology is reshaping the way information is stored and shared from finance teams to other departments in organisations.

From forecasting and budgeting to processing VAT returns, the automation of manual tasks gives time back to CFOs and finance teams to focus on higher value work.

What are we looking to do better going forward?

One result of the pandemic is that finance teams have been able to globally build a stronger team culture. Equipping people with the right tools and technology has created better team interaction and collaboration on projects while working remotely.

Though our new ways of working and commuting haven’t been written yet, technology has given us the opportunity to influence the future through the potential of hybrid working structures. “We at Advanced, and many other businesses around the country aren’t in a rush to go back to the way we were before. Evolving to hybrid working structures will have a positive influence on the employee experience.” – Andrew Hicks (CFO, Advanced)