Two thirds of businesses need to look beyond the financial imperative in post Covid-19 world

Research from ACCA and PwC shows two thirds of organisations need to embed finance business partnering further into strategy and decision making

Companies are being urged to look beyond the financial imperative as economies around the world look to kickstart as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finance Insights – Reimagined, a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and PwC, surveyed more than 3,400 firms on the changing role of the finance professional and how they can influence companies’ future direction.

The report highlights the greater focus on the finance business partner (FBP): individuals, or a group of individuals, who are the conduit between finance and its stakeholders. It outlines how they can help companies navigate turbulent economic times.

Results show finance business partnering was a proactive role in organisations, a fundamental part of decision-making and strategy. However, only 37% reported that it was truly embedded and that the remaining 63% are compromising their agility to support and influence business decision-making at this critical time.

The report outlines the FBP will be more commonplace than other finance roles as a result of automation and process efficiency. It also envisages the role of the partner will become more strategic and collaborative to support operational decision-making across the organisation.

Clive Webb, senior insights manager at ACCA, says finance business partnering is a key consideration for firms seeking survival and a more sustainable future ahead of an impending recession.

He said: ‘There is a temptation in responding to the COVID-19 events, as organisations and economies seek to recover, that the sole focus is on the financial imperative.

‘This approach could ignore the dangers society will continue to face and may lead to narrow responses to broader issues that are connected to the financial performance. To respond to this, accountancy and finance professionals need to have a robust skill set and must show they can play an ever-important role in driving business performance.’

Mr Webb concluded: ‘The two most valued aspects in the role were the support of business strategy and the analysis of current performance; this suggests that finance professionals might not yet be achieving the forward-looking view on which the future of the finance function depends.

‘The six hypotheses generated in this report allow businesses, both large and small, to explore the opportunity for finance insights and the role of business partners in generating sustainable value creation.’

Brian Furness, Partner at PwC, underlined the importance of the six capitals identified in the report in future planning.

He said: ‘The six capitals – financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and responsible, and natural – which are outlined in the report, provide a unique framework to evaluate how any finance function is performing.‘In response to COVID-19, and by using this framework, CFO’s will be able to make sense out of the current situation, and plan successfully for the future.’