What Are Other CFOs Thinking – In Your Part Of The World And Globally? (Part 1)

cfos

Part 1 in a series

CFOs are excited and engaged, embracing their mandate to be key strategic players, and enthusiastically looking to the future. That’s the optimistic news coming out of a recent survey of over 1,500 finance executives, conducted by CFO Publishing and sponsored by SAP, from four regions across the globe.

Top SAP finance executives share regional perspectives

In a recent series of region-by-region podcasts, The Innovative Finance Function, four experts in financial trends discussed the survey findings and their own from-the-field perspectives.  Commenting on their respective regions:

  • In North America, Thack Brown, general manager and global head of SAP’s Finance line of business
  • In Latin America, Fernando Lewis, VP of sales for SAP S/4HANA in Latin America
  • In Europe, Henner Schliebs, SAP global finance audience marketing executive
  • In Asia Pacific Japan, Richard Mclean, SAP regional CFO

Moderated by Chris Schmidt of CFO Research, each podcast posed six survey-related questions   to one of the regional experts. The following summarizes the responses to the first three questions from each financial thought leader, question by question, and pulls together cross-regional trends.

Question 1: Are you surprised that CFOs are overwhelming both pleased with their jobs and expect it to get better?
 

Survey Findings:Question 1 North America AsiaPac/Japan Europe Latin America
Job ExceededExpectation 84%       82% 78% 89%
Expect Job to Get Better 89%       86%        81% 95%

None of the four executives was surprised about CFOs’ enthusiasm for their jobs or with their expectation of a continuing upward trajectory. All indicated that CFOs are being called upon more and more to expand their scope and responsibilities.

In North America, Brown noted, “Businesses are relying more on finance in turbulent times.” In Latin America, Lewis attributed the optimism largely to changes in technology that have helped CFOs move from “reactive scorekeepers to proactive partners.”

Schliebs called CFOs the “business partners of choice,” but added that the lower percentages of enthusiasm among European CFOs could largely be attributed to the recently troubled European economy. McLean pointed to the fact that CEOs in the Asia Pacific Japan region “expected more of CFOs.”

Question 2:  Research found that a number of CFOs expect information technology to fall under the purview of the finance department. Why do you think that is?
 

Survey Findings:Question 2 North America Asia Pac/ Japan Europe Latin America
Expect IT to comeunder finance’s purview 37%       40%    29% 40%

 

All four SAP executives pointed out that both IT and finance transcend the entire organization.

Brown said that, based on this enterprise-wide point of view, “It is very natural that IT and finance form a deep partnership.” Lewis echoed the logic of the two functions being spearheaded by finance, since “transforming data and information” will impact new business models, product mix, market share, cash share, and other P&L–related initiatives.

In Europe, Schliebs remarked, “There is a mandate for the finance department to drive changes that support corporate growth and expansion, with IT being the platform for driving digital transformation.” In McLean’s view, “Business processes are becoming more IT oriented, with CFOs being asked to be increasingly involved in a holistic way.” As a result, the CFO has to make sure money in IT is well spent.

Question 3: What are the three biggest challenges facing financial professionals today?
Although specifics differed among the SAP executives, three challenges transcend geographic boundaries: dealing with increasing business complexities, handling regulatory requirements, and providing “instant insight.” Here are the top challenges, according to the exec in each region:

North America:

  • Helping organizations build needed capabilities for a successful future
  • Dealing with complexity in its many forms: regulatory, global, informational, and processes
  • Developing “instant insight” for decision making related to areas like “currency, acquisition, adapting business models, and day-to-day profitability”

Latin America:

  • Dealing with governance and compliance while, at the same time, creating new business models: “keeping the lights on and driving change.”
  • Driving change in real time – which requires new skill sets and new attitudes
  • Engaging the entire company: The finance team needs to interact with the entire corporation, understanding not just finance, but the workings of the whole organization.

Europe:

  • Supporting changes to the business model and creating the organization of the future. “How do we outpace the competition?”
  • Managing complexity: Finance is drowning in complexities of process, regulation, and information. Complexity has to go, and the CFO has to lead the way to simplify.
  • Managing performance through instant insight: There is no longer room for periodic processes. How does the finance department get out real-time info as needed?

Asia Pacific Japan:

  • Transforming the organization to keep up with present and future business needs without compromising compliance or increasing costs
  • Expanding the scope of the finance function through collaboration and timely insights
  • Finding and developing the best talent in an environment where quality human resources are limited and competitive. The finance team needs to become entrepreneurial so they can transform the business.

In the next blog, we’ll look at the final three questions discussed in the podcasts and the similarities and differences across regions.

To listen to the podcasts:

North America with Thack Brown, click here. 

Latin America podcast with Fernando Lewis, click here.

Europe podcast with Henner Schliebs, click here.

APJ podcast with Richard McLean, click here.

To learn more about how finance executives can empower themselves with the right tools and play a vital role in business innovation and value chain, download the regional research reports which offer additional information and valuable insights.

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About Babak Ghoreyshi

Babak Ghoreyshi is a Global Marketing Program Manager at SAP. In this role, he is responsible for managing global campaigns, developing digital strategies and executing social and paid media campaigns, creating thought leadership offers and content marketing assets, and leading project teams through the localization process.

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