Top Trends in Finance 2017
This year has, with a few notable exceptions, been a difficult one, and the phrase ‘unprecedented time of uncertainty’ has almost become cliché. As a CFO, your main priority is ensuring the financial stability of your company regardless of market conditions, and the apparent inability of anyone to predict anything has made this a greater challenge than ever before.
In 2017, world events are likely to continue to confuse and panic again in equal measure. The Italian banks are at breaking point, the French elections could see one of Europe’s leading powers fall under the control of a far-right party, and article 50 is likely to be triggered, beginning the process of the UK exiting the EU.
There are, however, reasons for the CFO to be optimistic about what 2017 holds. Donald Trump, for all his flaws, will likely cut corporation tax significantly, providing a timely boost for business, while technological advancements should also mean that finance leaders are better positioned to cope and drive growth.
According to a new survey by consulting firm Kaufman Hall, agility is a top priority for CFOs in 2017, yet many are still struggling to achieve it. Less than 23% of respondents to the survey said they are very confident about their company’s ability to overcome unforeseen business obstacles, citing outdated FP&A tools and processes as the primary cause.
This push for agility will see continuous forecasting take on an even more important role next year. In Kaufman Hall’s survey, 38% of respondents said their company now uses rolling forecasts, up from 33% from the same period a year ago and 25% in 2014 and popularity is likely to increase exponentially next year as companies begin to realize the benefits. A recent survey by Aberdeen Group saw 71% of top-performing organizations who responded say they mitigated against risks related to volatile business conditions by continuously updating forecasts to better reflect current business conditions, and those seeking to emulate them should do the same.
Cybersecurity remains a pressing concern for organizations of all sizes. In 2016 alone, 2.2 million patient records were taken from 21st Century Oncology, 1.5 million Verizon Enterprise Solutions customer records were stolen, and nearly 150 million accounts leaked from major email providers including Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail.
Such is the threat posed by hackers, the past year has seen cyber security increasingly fall under the purview of the CFO. A recent Grant Thornton survey of 912 CFOs found that 38% of respondents identified the CFO as the position most often responsible for cybersecurity, while 44% of finance leaders said they felt the most significant concern for their organization today is cybersecurity and 57% said undetected breaches were what worried them the most.
The logic behind giving the CFO oversight of cybersecurity is clear. They control some of the most sensitive and important data found within organizations, spanning revenues, profits, investments, and acquisitions. AICPA Vice President of CGMA External Relations, Ash Noah, notes that: ‘The finance function has a unique view into the complexities of the business, as well as an in-depth understanding of the industry, markets and risk climate, yielding important insights for a company’s strategic direction. As the finance function continues to evolve to become more business-centric, it’s critical for finance executives, from the CFO down, to play a driving role in preparing for and addressing potential cyber-risks for the long-term growth of the company.’
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been threatening to explode for a number of years now. Estimates for the number of connected devices on the market range from 20.8 billion by 2020 (Gartner) to 28 billion by 2021 (Ericsson).
The central challenge facing CFOs today is measuring and monitoring business performance in a timely fashion to ensure their organization can respond to events in an agile fashion and exploit every opportunity possible without too great an exposure to risk. The IoT will make it significantly easier for CFOs to do this, with data flowing into billing, enterprise resource planning, and accounting systems in real time. This will change the way that forecasting and audits are carried out, providing real-time visibility around transactions and making risks easier to pinpoint - ultimately, leading to better decision-making.
The last few years have seen a dramatic resurgence in the popularity of zero-based budgeting (ZBB), a budgeting method first popularized in the 1970s under President Jimmy Carter in which budgets are prepared from scratch with a zero-base rather than based on historic data. The number of publicly-traded US companies mentioning the term in their earnings calls increasing from 14 to 90 between 2013 and 2015, and some of the world’s largest organizations have now implemented ZBB - including Unilever, KraftHeinz, Coca-Cola and Mondelez, all of whom have reported significant cost reductions as a result.
ZBB is particularly well suited to an uncertain world, and is likely to continue to grow in popularity so long as uncertainty in the business climate continues. According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, a well-implemented zero-based budget can save large corporations 10-25%, sometimes as early as six months of implementation, and while it is time-consuming, it is likely to remain in trend for the next year at least.
The FP&A Innovation Summit is coming to San Diego on February 14 & 15. Over 2 days, 25+ speakers from the likes of Etsy, Dropbox, Samsung & other Fortune 500 companies will take the stage to discuss forecasting, cybersecurity, cash-flow optimization, sensitivity-modelling & more.
Register your interest here and quote BR20 to access a 20% discount!