EY CFO Imperative: Finance’s Data Strategy and Talent Ambition

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The finance function evolves in the current business environment and it must become more involved in data strategy and analytics, more connected across the organization, and led by a talent strategy that embraces both skills diversity and cultural change, concluded the latest edition of the EY study – CFO Imperative: How bold mindsets lead transformation, released on February 1st, 2024.

The study was initiated in response to the pressing requirement for the transformation of the Finance function within organizations in Romania, to serve as a critical reference, integrating insights from prominent professionals. Around 100 CFOs, Financial Directors, and Senior Finance Executives were surveyed for this edition of the study, with a broad geographical distribution, including but not limited to Bucharest, Cluj, Brasov, Timisoara, and Iasi.

Bogdan Ion, Country Managing Partner EY Romania & Moldova and Chief Operating Officer for EY South-East & Central Europe and Central Asia (CESA): “For an effective organisational strategy, it becomes essential to centralise financial, technical and sustainability data in a high-performance system. Our research indicates that Romanian CFOs are already actively involved in implementing these systems in their companies. Working closely with the commercial, sustainability and legal departments, under the coordination of the CFO, aims to strengthen the decision-making process, demonstrating the integration of sustainability into business strategy.”

The CFO Imperative study highlighted the main aspects that define the financial function in today’s Romanian business context. As shown by the results, CFOs in Romania are evolving in accordance with the global shift towards more sustainable business practices.

CFOs in Romania have a stronger inclination towards technology and digital innovation, talent and culture, and ecosystems and partnerships. However, they seem less focused on environmental, social, and governance programs in the short-term, compared to their global counterparts.

Guillaume Macczak, EY Romania Finance Consulting Leader said: “The CFO Imperative survey offers a profusion of insights, strategies, and trends impacting CFOs in Romania today. In essence, it corroborates the belief that the vital role of CFOs goes beyond mere number crunching and cost management. They are indeed the pioneers leading their organizations toward a future filled with growth, innovation, and sustainable responsibility. Thus, they understand that the integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors into financial practices can enhance a company’s long-term performance. The importance of adopting cutting-edge financial tools and technologies was brought to the fore. Intelligent business tools, machine learning, and digital projects that allow automation and efficiency in their departments are no longer an option but a compass for navigating today’s ever-changing business environment. Indeed, the CFO’s utilization of financial tools for business insights has become a critical catalyst for decision-making processes.

Technology and digital innovation stand as the top priority for CFOs in Romania, with approximately 82% endorsement, substantially higher than the global figure of 43%. This highlights a stronger focus on technology adoption and digital transformation.

The talents and culture are underscored as important by around 52% of the CFOs in Romania, more than double that the global figure of 20%. This indicates a greater emphasis on people and culture in fueling long-term transformation within Romania.

Interestingly, while “ESG Programs” appears to be a less pressing priority for CFOs in Romania at 32%, it matched the global priority level at 43%. This suggests a potential room for growth for sustainability focus in the Romanian context compared to the global stage. Globally, 51% of CFOs strongly agree to prioritize long-term investments in ESG programs as part of their company’s strategy, compared to a somewhat lower 34% on the Romanian side. This suggests stronger agreement globally on the need to prioritize long-term ESG goals when pursuing major changes.

The differences between CFOs in Romania and their global counterparts are even more pronounced about increasing pressure to drive cost efficiencies and meet short-term earnings targets here, with 44% of global CFOs strongly agreeing, dramatically higher than the 12% among the CFOs in Romania. This indicates a stronger global consensus on managing costs and focusing on short-term earnings while making bold changes.

The study identifies three pivotal qualities particularly emphasized by CFOs as crucial for progressive decision-making in the ever-evolving financial landscape:

  • Being “Smart”: crafting a robust data strategy and building an effective data analytics capability leveraging AI, indicated by a solid 88% of respondents. This signalizes the growing importance of data-driven decision-making, and how it’s considered a pivotal part of the evolving role of finance function.
  • Being “Connected”: encompassing the development of a next-generation finance model that promotes cross-functional collaboration and agile responsiveness, considered utmost essential by a substantial 92% of participants. This suggests a strong consensus on the shifting paradigm of finance, from a traditionally siloed function to a more integrated, connected one that can swiftly adapt to disruptions.
  • Talent-ledapproach: disrupting the conventional skill sets within the finance function and fostering a culture of innovation and value-driven behaviours – considered critically important by 68%.

 

The EY CFO Imperative survey revealed the transformation priorities for the next three years focus on boosting productivity and acquiring in-depth business intelligence.

  • For 75% of CFOs, the technology transformation is the most critical priority. This indicates a strong tilt towards digital transformation, leveraging emerging technologies to modernize processes, automate tasks, enhance productivity, and gain actionable insights.
  • For 62% of respondents, Advanced Data Analytics is noted as a crucial priority. As CFOs lean in to utilize financial tools for business insights, they’re increasingly harnessing the power of data analytics. With its ability to provide predictive capabilities, identify trends, and equip decision-makers with real-time insights, it plays a pivotal role in informed, strategic decision-making.
  • 38% of respondents underline the increasing recognition of successfully maneuvering in a complex regulatory setting and efficaciously administering risk for the comprehensive health and sustained growth of an organization. It’s worth noting that these functions, more historically associated with the CFO’s role in accounting and tax, exist primarily to safeguard the company’s value rather than to facilitate its growth.
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