Benefits: a finance team is central to growth
1) The same but different
The obvious benefit to implementing cloud-based solutions is that accounting and reporting becomes a largely automated, straight-through process. Companies can produce key reports and analysis with significantly less manual work and with greater accuracy and cost-efficiency. FinTech becomes better integrated with front- and back-office platforms, avoiding duplication of work and strengthening control, as workers no longer need manual interventions to assemble, correct and reconcile financial data.
This faster, enhanced approach moves the finance function from just a reporting function to an integral cog in the success of a FinTech – for example, being able to produce decision-ready insights to help develop products, markets and customers, and improve financial resources, such as cash and capital.
2) Transforming finance to the heart of decision-making
A modern, comprehensive, finance system supports the art of the possible, as it allows the finance team to specialize in data-led insights that have real commercial value. It brings a wealth of new tools to the CFO, enabling financial planning and forecasting to directly influence the operating model. It can move the finance function to the heart of decision-making through increased influence in the following areas:
- Cost: Keeping the cost base down, running finance services more efficiently and providing insights to the rest of the business to enable better cost management
- Control: Improved delivery of accurate, timely, consistent reporting and data to both internal and external stakeholders
- Cognition: Enhanced ability to analyze business data and derive insight to support strategic and business decision-making
- Compliance: Efficiently and consistently responding to regulatory requirements, quickly codifying changes in regulations and helping ensure compliance with accounting policies and multi-jurisdiction regulation
The importance of these areas may vary depending on maturity. Fortunately, online-based finance systems are designed to grow with the business, scaling up as needed.
Challenge of implementation
Moving to a more comprehensive finance system brings a particular challenge for FinTechs: the cultural change needed. It requires a different skillset and attitude than “just getting the numbers right.” Automation mainly takes care of the basic numbers and reconciliation, while the people working with such systems add value through analysis and sharing of insights. Helping ensure the finance team is skilled to get the best from an enhanced finance proposition is key.
The silver lining is that FinTechs are, by nature, agile and free of legacy IT systems, so moving to a new, improved approach should be much easier than it would be for larger organizations.
Core to success
In the same way companies quickly outgrow their initial premises, the finance function can become a hinderance as FinTechs make key growth decisions. Yet, ironically, this is when the finance function is potentially most valuable. Internally, it can provide the right insights for action; and externally, it offers credibility and trust in the numbers. A better organized, structured finance function shows the outside world that the business is well managed, which is vital as firms look to raise capital or float.
The benefits can outweigh any disruption or cost for a high-growth FinTech. To recap, these include:
- Better productivity through automating finance processes – cheaper, faster and more accurate
- More informed decision-making, allowing the CFO to do more than just reporting
- Meeting the expectations of customers, regulators and investors
- Maximizing valuations, through enhanced trust, credibility and better decision-making
Richard S Jones, CFO Technology Leader for FinTechs, Ernst & Young LLP, Bob Sherlock, Financial Services Consulting Director, Ernst & Young LLP and Andy Hirst, VP of Financial Services, EMEA North, SAP SE contributed to this article.