The finance function of SMEs and mid-caps continues to play an increasingly strategic role. Business partners, business makers, or more recently sustainable business partners, CFOs - and finance departments more broadly - play an important role and are closely involved in operational decision-making in order to eventually become the drivers of company performance.
What impact has the health crisis had on finance department's priorities?
In 2018, PwC and the French Association of Chief Financial Officers and Management Controllers (DFCG) interviewed 300 Chief Financial Officers to find out their priorities.
Before the health crisis, CFOs' main concern was helping to define their company's growth strategy. Since then, CFOs believe that their top priority is now performance management, followed by cash flow management and then development strategy.
There are three main aspects to this:
- Managing performance through flexible processes. CFOs can free up their time by automating and simplifying budget analysis so that they can provide their business intelligence to other departments.
- Optimising the availability of liquidity: prioritising good cash flow management and providing reliable cash flow forecasts are key to meeting the two main challenges of 2021: innovation and growth.
- Contributing to the growth strategy (organic development and external growth): CFOs are moving outside their function to improve the company's competitiveness.
Cybersecurity, a key factor in becoming sustainable and developing greater resilience.
Risk management, even more so since the crisis, data theft, fraud, GDPR disputes, etc.: CFOs are on the front line when it comes to prevention and early detection of threats.
They use their cross-functional position to act on two levels and are in charge of:
- Educating about risk management and pooling it, as part of the company's relations with suppliers, investors, insurers and public bodies.
- Strengthening the company's IT system (traceability, information architecture and risk management governance).
According to the Finyear article on "the 2021 priorities of the CFO", finance departments, with their new, more digital and connected environment, face critical challenges such as cybersecurity, the "cloud" and technological innovations. When faced with the risk of cyberattack, raising team awareness and keeping IT environments secure remain the main means of reducing this risk.
Is CSR the right strategy to link profitability and sustainability and thus to start growing again?
Taking CSR issues into account is increasingly becoming an integral part of company strategy. Companies are now seeking "sustainability". Whether this is a result of regulatory pressure or pressure from customers, employees or investors, companies are accelerating their transition.
For a long time, sustainability came under the communication or marketing department, or even under operational management in the event of critical issues. However, CSR is holistic and covers a variety of topics: human resources, procurement, governance - and finance.
CFOs are at the intersection of all these, so their role is important: this is apparently the direction in which more and more CFOs are going in SMEs and mid-caps.
The health crisis has accelerated the incorporation of CSR issues into corporate strategy as CFOs have come to recognise that non-financial performance is as important as financial performance.
This growing involvement is also explained by the two main aims of CSR, namely risk management and cost reduction, both directly connected to the work of CFOs.
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