From Boardroom to War Room: The Evolving Role of the CFO

In periods of rapid change for finance teams, the CFO is critical in directing strategy. How can they gain better insight into their organisations' processes and determine where greater investment is needed?

Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY, examines the shifting role of CFOs and a new way in which they can bring effective transformation.

With the speed of digital transformation ever increasing, businesses and financial organisations are working hard to keep up. When they do, transformation often means expanding the responsibilities of those in charge – but it’s not all about the CIO, CTO, or even CEO. Nowadays, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is at the centre of this change. As such, the role of whole finance team will evolve, as they are placed at the strategic heart of the enterprise.

The CFO is in a unique position to bring intelligent solutions to the enterprise. Gartner predicted that by 2021, 85% of all customer interactions will be managed without a human. By introducing technology, businesses will be empowered to forecast how competitors will react, how customers will respond, and where risks will emerge. Nowhere is this level of competition more fierce than in banking and financial services (FS) – as such, the FS industry has become a battleground.

If they want to come out on top, finance teams will need to do more than just engage customers online. They need to strategise and map out their battle plan to attract and onboard new customers digitally, while creating a speedy and secure digital experience for existing ones. They need to invest in digitising their back-office systems and processes to enhance front-line interactions. Where better to gain a broad, accurate view of their organisation and processes than a ‘digital war room’?

Why a war room?

In many firms, including in banking and FS, the CFO and their team rely heavily on data that comes in from customer-facing operations, so they can link predictive analytics with customer behaviour. The sheer volume of data can be cumbersome, but with better management, financial institutions can anticipate the needs of customers, make banking easier, and pursue the right partnerships to increase capabilities and scale.

If they want to come out on top, finance teams will need to do more than just engage customers online.

Enter the digital war room. Here, CFOs can get visibility into every single process in their business as they actually behave. They can see variances, bottlenecks and delays, and put all this data to good use, mapping out how to better meet customer and business needs.

Process analytics can help to deliver insights from data that already exists within a financial organisation. With trends and customer needs constantly changing, it’s important that CFOs and banks stay ahead of the curve by capturing meaningful insights. In fact, 98% of banking and FS bosses agree that technologies (like process mining) would be helpful to their business. An example of this is delivering personalised services based on the customer profiles that banks have. They can use the data on customer preferences, buying history, demographics, and behaviour to better understand their needs.

A C-suite seat for process intelligence

Setting up your digital war room is only half the battle. The real challenge is about knowing which technologies to use in it. Whether it is account opening, loan applications, payment processing, or any of the thousands of other possible processes, the right technology is the missing link – a sure-fire way to win new customers and keep existing ones.

Attempting to automate your processes without first knowing which work well and which don’t is a losing battle – you’ll only make bad processes bad faster. This is where process intelligence comes in as a critical component of any digital war room. Right now, only 55% of banking and FS businesses we surveyed said they frequently use tech to assess business processes. This means almost half don’t have visibility of their data and can’t spot bottlenecks and blind spots in customer interactions – not to mention in their back-end processes. This might be causing more problems than the CFO realises – and could be the key to solving some age-old dilemmas.

Using the right technologies in the right setting is critical in helping finance teams nail the processes that trip them up. The war room can empower the CFO and its staff with oversight and control over the processes they work with every day. This means they can ensure that customer experience remain a priority – as this is critical for revenue generation – whilst making better business decisions than ever before.

Digital transformation has blurred the lines between organisational change and technological. To keep up, CFOs will need not only to lead digital transformation efforts both big and small, but to quickly learn the strategic skills to create a war room – and win both the battle and the war.

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