EY MENA FAAS survey reveals that the pandemic has shed light on the need to accelerate the adoption of emerging trends in the finance function
Lockdowns, ghost cities and deserted offices. Disruption of production and supply chains. Uncertainty in revenues and profitability. Finance and liquidity challenges. Volatile capital markets. COVID-19 has brought disorder to which humankind is not immune. Most tragic of all, many human lives have been lost, and others are still at risk.
For finance leaders, protecting workforce and people, securing financial stability and safeguarding business continuity are top priorities as they focus on responding to the outbreak now. Running day-to-day operations has become a vital challenge. Finance leaders are learning and adapting in real time as new events unfold day by day. There is no manual for this situation.
At the same time, finance leaders are grappling to secure financial stability amid dwindling interest rates, volatile currency and commodity markets, stressed cash flows and imminent liquidity crunches. They need to enhance their financial risk management strategies by maintaining adequate headroom, recalibrating cash flow forecasts, optimizing liquid resources and implementing robust controls frameworks.
While focused on their immediate response, finance leaders are also planning for what's next. COVID-19 outbreak has exposed much vulnerability in the finance operating model across multiple levers and highlighted the urgency to accelerate the adoption of trends that were already underway: digitalization and automation, collaborative technologies, remote connectivity and digital upskilling of finance teams.
Step-change transformations —at the pace imposed by this pandemic — will entail an evolution to agile operating models that allow finance functions to better optimize use of resources.
COVID-19 has also challenged organizations on fundamental themes: purpose, environment and social impact, work culture, people health, safety and well-being, trust and reputation, and sustainable growth. Organizations will need to reframe their future beyond this crisis and along these themes. Finance teams will have an important role to play, but need to transform themselves by adopting a more forward-looking culture focused on both financial and nonfinancial insights necessary for long-term value creation.
Amid these sweeping changes, finance leaders are more than ever at the intersection of now, next and beyond. The coming 12-to-18 months will require them to balance skillfully with one foot firmly planted in responding now and the other firmly planted in adapting and strengthening resilience for next, while concurrently reframing their future for the long-term value that lies beyond.