UK CFOs lead European counterparts in finance function digitisation


By Samantha White

The digitisation of the finance function presents an ongoing challenge for many CFOs, but UK finance chiefs are confident that the changes they are making will enable their departments to remain compliant and competitive in the years to come.

Eighty-nine per cent of UK finance leaders were confident that their digitisation plans enable them to meet today’s business challenges, compared with 83% of their counterparts in Europe.

Looking to the longer term, the confidence gap grows wider. In the UK, 86% of finance leaders felt confident they would be able to meet the challenges to come in five years’ time. This view was shared by 72% of the European CFOs surveyed.   

The survey, commissioned by Robert Half UK, was based on interviews with more than 200 UK-based senior finance executives and 1,000 of their counterparts in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Barriers to digitisation

Although they are confident in the process now, 87% of UK CFOs said they had experienced challenges in rolling out their digitisation programmes. Technology limitations were the most common obstacle, cited by 40% of respondents. Organisational and/or operating models posed challenges for 32%, followed by executive leadership direction (29%) and lack of required skills (26%). Standardisation of processes proved problematic for 23%, and the cost of such a project was considered a barrier by 19%.

Investment priorities for UK CFOs

 1. Data analytics  50%
 2. Fraud detection/risk management  43%
 3. Compliance and regulation  35%
 4. Accounting processes  27%
 5. Vendor and/or client interfaces  25%
 6. Financial reporting  21%
 7. No investment in new areas or initiatives  7%

As part of the digitisation process, half of all the companies surveyed planned to invest in data analytics, providing finance functions with the tools to forecast and test business scenarios. However, investment plans differed for small businesses, with 48% citing fraud detection and risk management as a priority. This was followed by data analytics (37%) and compliance and regulation (28%).

Samantha White (swhite@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.