As 2021 draws to a close, discussion is turning to what trends and evolutions we’re expecting to see in 2022. As part of this conversation, Xledger turned its attention to examine the future of the Chief Financial Officer role.

The aim of this research (conducted in August and September 2021 by Sapio Research, amongst 529 CFOs and decision makers in the UK) was to understand how the role is evolving, and the challenges that people who will become CFOs in the future will have to face.

For Future of Tech month at TechSPARK, we’ve put together a brief summary of their findings. 

How has the CFO role evolved?

Change is evident in almost every business sector and division, driven by many different forces; digital transformation, the pandemic, Brexit and ESG factors to name a few. To witness this change, you need to look no further than the role of the Chief Financial Officer. 

The pace of change of the CFO has accelerated considerably. To substantiate this, 99% of CFOs, Heads of Finance and Finance Directors stated that their role had evolved over the past three years, 80% of which said it had evolved significantly.

The additional responsibilities being placed on these roles look to provide ample opportunity to affect company growth. Some of these new responsibilities included modernising the finance strategy and process, providing learnings to pivot business needs during the pandemic and to provide data driven forecasts and accurate insights.

Xledger concludes, “Whilst the increasing importance of the role and diversification of responsibilities across the organisation puts today’s CFO in a unique position to affect substantial company growth, it comes with a warning. If the increasing weight of this role is not enhanced with the right tools and technology, it can lead to overworking, mismanagement and many frustrations that impact the day-to-day operation and, adversely, are liable to stunt company growth.”

Presently, 91% of CFOs, Head of Finance and Finance Directors stated they are feeling additional pressure as a result of this evolution.

Why are CFOs feeling the pressure in their new roles?

The top frustration of CFOs was the need to carry out repetitive and manual tasks (33%) followed by the reliance on hard copies of documents or legacy spreadsheets (27%), bottlenecks in the flow of information (26%) and similarly, having access to the latest data in real time (25%).

Taking a deeper look into the top-rated frustration, Xledger investigates what this specifically includes. The highest reported was invoice approvals – ranking at 39%. Other tasks included repeating invoicing, payments runs and debtors management.

Repetitive and manual tasks seem to be indicative of the finance role, with an enormous 91% stating that they need to carry out at least one of the above repetitive tasks as part of their job. But to what extent does this impact their ability to carry out other aspects of their role?

Over half of the respondents (52%) said that they spend 20 hours or more carrying out repetitive and manual tasks – that’s over half of a standard working week of 40 hours. 15% said that they spend between 30-34 hours and shockingly, 7% spend 35 hours or more.

The more senior you are, the more likely you are to be carrying out these tasks, therefore, surprisingly, the UK’s top strategic decision makers are spending up to 25 hours a week on low value-added tasks. It may be that these results highlight not just the stresses of the CFO themselves, but of their whole team, given their inability to delegate these tasks.

Use of tools and technology 

Xledger is a leading mid-market cloud-based technology focussing on automation. With a suite of automation features including OCR, automated purchase invoice and expense handing, reoccurring and professional services billing and in-system payment processes, their value is giving back time to CFOs and their finance departments, allowing them to spend more time of higher value-added activities.

The study examined cloud adoption rates to answer the question: does this have any impact on the way CFOs are carrying out their roles?

They found that on average, over half of financial services have been moved to the cloud, second only to IT with 54% in the cloud on average.

However, the finance function is steeped in rich-data which is clearly still heavily reliant on repetitive human data re-keying, but is ripe for cloud transformation and as a result, stands to be the sector with the most to gain from automation capabilities.

A modern, true cloud finance system can enable your business to automate repetitive tasks, give you live insights so you can make informed business decisions and help you scale your business.

Whilst different companies are at different stages in their digital transformation what is clear is keeping up with the latest technology is fundamental to the future success of an organisation. 

If you are looking for a finance system or would like more information on the latest technology trends, please get in contact with us at Xledger by emailing mail@xledger.co.uk

You can find out more about Xledger here.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.