CFO: Disrupting, taking control, and turning data into value

Chief financial officers (CFOs) at banks and insurance companies are playing a growing role in digital transformation by leveraging new data and analytic technologies and by assuming greater influence in decisions about technology investments, according to new research from Accenture.

cfo growing role

The research — based on a global cross-industry survey of CFOs and qualitative interviews with more than 700 finance executives — is published in two reports, one for the banking industry and one for the insurance industry.

A key finding from both reports: Three-quarters of the financial services CFOs surveyed believe that driving business-wide operational transformation is within their purview (77 percent in banking and 74 percent in insurance) and more than three-quarters see identifying and targeting areas of new value across the business as one of their main responsibilities (82 percent in banking and 81 percent in insurance).

“Banking and insurance CFOs are at the center of the organization, working alongside the CEO, acting as the economic guardian to ensure that the digital transformation strategy is effective across the entire enterprise,” said Steve Culp, a senior managing director at Accenture and global head of the company’s Finance & Risk practice. “By leveraging predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to better interpret data for key business decisions, CFOs can drive value, improve efficiency and enable strategy beyond the borders of the finance function.”

Both reports highlight the following key findings:

CFOs are playing a crucial role in digital investments

Three-quarters of the financial services CFOs surveyed are leading efforts to improve efficiency through the adoption of digital technologies and exploring how disruptive new technologies could benefit their organization, indicating that CFOs are emerging as drivers of the enterprise-wide digital agenda.

Finance is taking a lead role in data and analytics

According to the research, CFOs’ biggest potential strength is the ability to harness data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of not just the finance function, but the entire organization. CFOs are striving to become more proactive and forward looking in their reporting, using new technologies along with data from inside and outside their organization to prepare for future changes more easily and accurately.

Banking finance executives are more likely than those in other industries to provide proactive analysis of future business scenarios throughout the organization (cited by 40 percent of banking CFOs, compared with 34 percent across the other industries, on average). Insurance CFOs are significantly more likely than those in other sectors to say that finance should take a leading role in identifying and managing control of the most critical data (cited by 57 percent of insurance CFOs, compared with 38 percent across the other industries, on average).

Challenges finding finance talent with data and analytics skills

The need for sophisticated data analysis among banking and insurance finance professionals is creating a new challenge: recruiting and retraining talent to execute on the analytics enabled by additional data and advanced tools.

Banking CFOs said that the ability to analyze data is a core requirement of their role, and they consider data science one of the most important skills that junior finance executives can have (cited by 41 percent). Meanwhile, insurance CFOs believe that their companies are more likely than those in other sectors to have financial talent shortages that prevent them from achieving their business-wide strategic ambitions.

“Financial services CFOs are increasingly performing a difficult balancing act between managing risk and unlocking value,” Culp said. “The use of data and the broader adoption of digital technologies offer an extraordinary opportunity, but only if the finance team — and the broader organization — have the talent, skills and resources to capitalize on them.”

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