During REVx 2021, we talked to dozens of financial experts, CFOs and business leaders and learned countless lessons. However, five stand out.
Insight 5: Paper checks still have a serious presence
It’s helpful, once in a while, to get a reality check devoid of hype and hopes of what could be. And that happened when stats from a Goldman Sachs research report shared during our discussion with Denver-area experts:
- 60 percent of all business-to-business payments are still made by check.
- Payments by check percentages jump to 80 percent for small and medium businesses.
With so much of the world eliminating the use of paper in business practices, why are these numbers so high?
Though many are comfortable with the idea of a paper check, they are inherently problematic. Compared with automated electronic payments, they’re tough to keep track of, are more susceptible to fraud and take longer to arrive at their destinations.
Think about the relative ease with which a fraudster can steal information off your company’s paper check then use that to steal money from your company. All the key information they need is right there on the paper.
If fraudsters manage to steal the information, there could be more than financial losses. Your brand’s reputation could be weakened. Employee morale could drop.
So while it’s true paper checks are still widely used, there are plenty of solid business reasons to stop using them and automate your payments.
Insight 4: It’s time to prioritize digital resiliency
For the past several years, companies and finance departments have undergone digital transformation — an expansive process extending from marketing to finance to supply chains and everything else,
This transformation will continue and digital technologies will help businesses operate more efficiently and create more value for their customers. But what we learned from our REVx panelists is there’s another big trend coming called digital resiliency.
This trend includes:
- Carefully curated technology stacks
- Maximized efficiency levels
- Teams that feels prepared and supported
- Heavy focus on bottom-line financial performance
“Wholesale end-to-end digital transformation is becoming obsolete,” said Dan Drees, AvidXchange’s chief growth officer, during the session with Washington D.C.-area experts. “Digital resiliency will be much more about using technologies in more targeted, smaller and better ways.”
The more you focus now on how to make your business more digitally resilient in the next few years, the better chance you have of leveraging those capabilities to your advantage.
Insight 3: CFOs should become chief value officers
It’s clear the roles of CFOs are expanding well beyond ensuring the company’s financial reports are accurate and timely.
These finance leaders are being called on to add more value as business strategists and overall leaders of the directions of their companies.
Because of these expanding responsibilities, it’s be necessary for chief financial officers to become “chief value officers,” said Heather Caudill, vice president of relationship management for AvidXchange’s, during a discussion with Miami-area finance leaders.
As chief value officers, their roles will be broadened to derive more valuable insights from their data to drive business growth, make strategic investment recommendations and boost stakeholder value.
Donald Noble, a partner with the Florida CFO Group, said that a major part of the CFO’s role going forward will be understanding various financial technologies coming to the market and how they add value to business.
“CFOs have to be prepared for everything coming along and have detailed knowledge about different innovative technologies and potential benefits to their businesses,” said Noble. “They should own this role themselves.”
The CFO’s Guide to Making Sense of Payment Automation
Insight 2: Storytelling skills are in-demand
During these sessions, finance experts often mentioned the growing importance of storytelling for advancement in the finance profession.
Storytelling in finance is about analyzing your company’s AP payment numbers, for example, and interpreting what it all means beyond just reporting the data.
Finance pros can tell business leaders what’s crucial going in in the business in a compelling and easy-to-grasp way. Based on their analysis, the story could be that the AP department is headed for financial losses due to mistakes if it doesn’t automate AP processes within the next year.
During the next several years finance pros who excel at telling these emotionally resonating stories will be in hot demand.
“Based on your financial numbers, a finance pro needs to know what story they’re trying to tell,” said Tara Klein, vice president of finance with Graham Oleson. “They need to know if the story they’re trying to tell is of value to the business or if they’re missing the mark.”
Insight 1: WFH employees are highly productive
When the pandemic began, finance pros were concerned about how productive their employees would be working from home on a massive scale.
Turns out, that was nothing to worry about.
“Without a doubt, our company has been more productive since work-from-home began because of the pandemic,” said Joe DeDominicis, CFO and CTO of NRL Mortgage. “We doubled the size of our business and we certainly didn’t double our staff.”
Ed Robinson, a CPA and expert on financial team performance with Robinson Performance Group Inc., said:
“The quality of not micro-managing workers increases their productivity exponentially. When you start giving people the keys to the ship and allowing them to work remotely, they shift to be being more innovative. They become even more productive than you originally asked of them.”
Finance pros will continue to evaluate these productivity levels in the coming months and make decisions about employees working from home or not on an ongoing basis.
This issue is going to be one of the most important balancing acts finance leaders will be performing over the next few years.