The rise of the techno-finance chief

9th January 2014

MGI World The rise of the techno-finance chief

Greater reliance on technology could see the rise of a new C-suite executive who must be as comfortable with emerging tech trends as finance skills, according to a pair of accounting bodies.

This year could see the emergence of the chief financial technology officer (CFTO), says the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

It comes at the start of the second ever CFO Month, during which the two accounting bodies champion the work of the chief finance officer role. This year the month has a technology-focused theme.

Helen Brand, ACCA chief executive, explained how research by the two bodies in 2013 has pointed to greater technological involvement for CFOs across the world. “Their involvement in big data and technology trends is critical to business growth and profit. As CFOs take on a more strategic and globally-focused outlook within business, technology will loom larger in their remit,” she said.

Cyber security, cloud technology, virtual and augmented reality, digital service delivery and even artificial intelligence and robotics are just some of the trends that, by featuring more and more in business strategy, are driving the development of the CFTO.

Ms Brand added: “Chief finance officers are agents of change within today’s businesses, which means they are at the forefront of technological. Who would have thought 10 years ago that these trends would become part of the CFO role? They are and will continue to do so. We could see the rise and rise of the CFTO as a regular seat on the board.”

In 2013 two key reports from ACCA and IMA showed how technology was impacting upon the CFO’s role. Digital Darwinism: thriving in the face of technology change highlighted the ten technologies finance professionals identified as having an impact on their roles and the businesses they worked within. Mobile technology and cyber crime were just two such technology trends that were changing the role of the CFO, but perhaps the most important thing for finance professionals is harnessing big data.

A second report from ACCA and IMA Big data: its power and perils demonstrated the potential for business of all sizes, governments and regulators in harnessing this wealth of unstructured information.

That report found that 62 per cent of CFOs across the world cited big data as hugely important to the future of business, potentially giving businesses an edge on their competitors.

Executive chairman Ng Boon Yew noted in the foreword to the study: “Accountants and finance professionals are well placed to take an active role in big data by providing a new and critical service: ‘distilling’ vast amounts of information into actionable insights.”

As the two accountancy bodies note, the “volume and variety of data” that can be collected by businesses and governments is increasing rapidly, providing a wealth of information. The ability to organise, make sense and analyse it is at the core of the substantial investments that corporations are making.

Jeff Thomson, IMA president and chief executive officer, said: “Big data has yet to reach its full potential, but CFOs will need to be at the forefront of using such data. Its value is vital to a business, but potential legal and ethical pitfalls remain. Finance professionals have a public duty to act within the parameters of the law and are responsible for using big data in an appropriate way.”

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