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Understanding societal drivers that are changing the finance function

The Covid-19 pandemic and other social developments are changing finance professionals’ preferences and wishes. What do they currently find important in their work? As a finance leader, how do you keep them loyal to your organisation? And how will you attract new talent? Ricky Mui, Managing Director - Greater China, explains.

The rise of remote working

Recruitment specialist Robert Walters recently surveyed over 5,500 professionals and 2,200 global companies across 31 countries worldwide and held one-to-one interviews with CFO’s and Heads of Finance to find out what factors will continue to drive change within the finance function in the next few years. According to these finance leaders, it was remote working (74%) that had the most impactful change for finance professionals working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The transition to remote working had a big impact on many departments, but out of all the back-office functions, finance is one of the least experienced in remote working, with just 18% of finance professionals having full freedom to work from home pre-Covid.

But the large-scale remote working experiment was a success: 70% of finance professionals stated that they would like the opportunity to work from home more often, with a 17% wanting to make this transition permanent.

Ricky: "That’s where the shoe pinches for many CFO’s and finance leaders. They worry about employees being less productive when working from home (62%), and believe it’s difficult to combine flexible working with the traditional company culture (59%). In addition, the lack of IT resources and infrastructure (30%) are preventing more remote working in the future."

At the same time, various studies show that back-office functions, such as finance, can be just as productive for the business when remote-based. The key barrier to financial information being handled off-site seems to be becoming less of an issue. The sudden move to remote-working pushed businesses to invest in cloud-based and online-security systems at a far greater rate and pace than they had planned for in the next 5-10 years. In fact, according to Gartner, businesses will have spent more than $330bn on remote-working technology in the past year as well as a further $124bn on information security and risk management technology.

To meet the demands of finance professionals as well as CFO’s and senior managers, the latter group must therefore find a balance between working in the office on the one hand and offering remote working on the other.


Inclusivity policy is important when considering a job move

At entry level positions, the gender mix across the accountancy and finance profession tends to be equally balanced. But as we rise through the ranks, women become increasingly under-represented, with just 20% of finance leadership roles around the globe being held by women.

"Global events challenging diversity such as the Me Too and Black Lives Matter have bought inclusion issues from the living room to the boardroom. With a third of finance professionals stating that a companies inclusivity culture is important to them when considering a job move, it is something that both CEO and CFO’s need to be acutely aware of", says Ricky.

Employee Value Proposition

Across the globe, employers need to work hard to attract quality financial talent and retain employees. Having a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in place, is a great step in the right direction. An EVP is about defining the essence of your company, how it is unique and what it stands for. It’s not only about salary and benefits, but also about norms and values, corporate responsibility, the company’s vision and corporate culture.  

Non-career related factors such as work-life balance (48%), inclusivity (31%) and feeling inspired by colleagues and culture (29%) are the most important to finance professionals, as well as investment in training and qualification (22%) and a clear progression route (16%).

"When defining an EVP, it is important for CFO’s and finance leaders to pay attention to these topics in order to both attract finance talent and reduce attrition", concludes Ricky.

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