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Canadian CFO insights

How can finance functions navigate key forces of change?

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced finance functions to quickly rethink how they operate as they put a pause on in-person work and had to use digital tools for almost everything they do. Many proved their resilience in meeting baseline requirements like cash-flow analysis, revenue forecasts and budgeting even as they responded to demands for better and faster insights to help organizations navigate uncertainty. 

While they’ve risen to the occasion, the forces of change impacting finance functions have continued to evolve. They include:

  • An enhanced role for the finance function, especially when it comes to providing real-time, forward-looking insights; 

  • A fierce war for talent as chief financial officers grapple with the loss of key people amid the so-called great resignation and a challenging environment for recruitment;

  • Continued uncertainty about the ideal workplace model for finance functions; and

  • Ongoing questions about how finance functions can support their organizations in providing high-quality reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters.

As one of the CFOs we interviewed for this report told us, the challenges add up to a “perfect storm” for finance leaders. Even as they face new demands for insights and a path forward on ESG reporting, they’re struggling to hire and keep the people they need to do the work and meet these changing expectations. This means that capacity, even after investing in finance transformation over the years, is a growing challenge.

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Building on the finance transformation momentum

So how are CFOs responding? Our interviewees had a mix of responses. While there’s a general sense of not wanting to go back to how their finance functions operated in the past, some said they had slowed down their transformation efforts. We saw some of this sentiment in the recent CFO survey conducted by PwC and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The survey found 29% of Canadian respondents said they had either slowed down on or abandoned changes they had planned prior to the pandemic.

The good news is some of our interviewees are continuing to build on the momentum. One described their efforts to be more agile in response to the increased pace of decision making. In their case, they’re making an effort to roll out new solutions to customers even if they’re not yet perfect. While in the past, the emphasis was on addressing all issues before launching a solution, there’s now a greater willingness to move quickly. Examples like this reinforce the idea that finance transformation isn’t just about technology; sometimes, it’s about how a changing mindset can help finance teams be more effective.


Reflecting on any changes that have occurred to the finance function because of the pandemic, which of the following reflects your situation?


Changes planned prior to the pandemic have now been abandoned
%
Changes planned prior to the pandemic have now slowed down
%
Changes planned prior to the pandemic happened as expected
%
Changes have been made in response to the pandemic that we don’t expect to keep
%
Changes have been made in response to the pandemic that we expect to keep
%
Changes planned have been accelerated
%
There have been no changes made
%

Source: PwC/ACCA 2021 CFO survey, Canadian results

Key takeaways for CFOs

These emerging challenges have shown that slowing down on change or even returning to what had been business as usual isn’t an option. So what does this mean for CFOs?

Number 1

Now is the time to take stock of how you’ll respond to these pressures by revisiting your broader strategy for finance transformation or, if that’s not possible, identifying the smaller actions you can take now to free up capacity to address new pressures and expectations.

Number 2

Consider adopting a three-step approach focused on developing your people and transforming your processes so your finance function can enhance its ability to drive performance excellence.

Number 3

Transformation is even more important today given the increased relevance of the finance function during the pandemic. Our CFO survey found some concerns that this increased relevance may not last. Accelerating your finance transformation agenda will help you make sure that it does.

 

Contact us

Adam Boutros

Adam Boutros

National Assurance Markets Lead, Future of Finance Leader, Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 905 815 6432

Marino Fremis

Marino Fremis

Partner, Finance Transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5196

Samir Bishara

Samir Bishara

National Finance Transformation Consulting Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5730

Lee-Anne Kovacs

Lee-Anne Kovacs

Partner, Technology, Media, Telecom & Consumer Markets, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9206 | C: +1 416 918 8753

Kyle Snyder, CPA, CA

Kyle Snyder, CPA, CA

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8300

Stephen Atherton

Stephen Atherton

Partner, SAP Consulting, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 782 2984

Philip Hagel

Philip Hagel

Partner, Energy, Utilities & Mining, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8131 | C: +1 416 737 1200

Manisha Chen

Manisha Chen

Assurance Director, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 905 418 3440

Laura Wood

Laura Wood

Partner, Government and Public Sector ERP transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8153

Benoit Auger

Benoit Auger

Partner and Finance Transformation Leader for Quebec, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5021

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