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Your finance function is ready for change. Are you?

Top-performing finance functions are keeping automation high on their agendas, but it’s just the start of a bigger push for performance.


Why it matters

A new generation of educated, diverse and digitally savvy talent has entered the workplace. They’re seeking meaningful roles and the ability to work across functions. And they have the skills to use emerging technologies to test new ideas.

All this is happening at a time when finance’s external, internal and strategic customers—ie. regulators, business units and investors—are demanding accurate, insightful and forward-looking information. You need to know how to motivate and assemble teams to meet these changing demands.

What's working

There’s a lot you can do to get existing teams focused on smarter work now. Start by thinking about how stakeholder needs are changing and what new roles you’re likely to need. Two areas are top of mind today:

1. Core, yet fluid skills: The modern finance organization runs on finance athletes: professionals who can easily toggle between roles and functions. These are not roles with requiring narrow expertise—not just supply chain, procurement or reporting skills. Yes, these professionals have core finance skills, but they can also embody personas like techno players who can bridge IT and finance, or value drivers who can anticipate risk issues like corruption before they even surface.

Their hybrid skills are in demand for emerging finance function jobs such as global process owners, business growth partners, analytics and value managers and data scientists. Core roles like financial analysts and accounting managers are stretching their problem-solving skills, too—empowering them to identify pain points for the business and learn to create automations that can improve their own cycle times.

Expect needs to keep changing for different skills, but don’t expect to pin down how every role will change. What you can do is understand today’s underutilized skill sets and create opportunities for people to build their athletic muscle so they can grow and play new roles as needs emerge. Pay close attention to opportunities for learning and development, which can have big payoffs.

Across our finance effectiveness benchmark groups, those who invest in learning and development have half the resignation rates than those who don’t. Lower turnover means lower replacement costs, less drag on productivity and less time for retraining—and when it’s tailored to your situation, company-provided learning grows more stable teams who are capable of understanding the business and raising their performance game.

Our benchmarking data shows that finance budgets overall are not shrinking, but rather shifting as savvy finance leaders plow cost savings into the next round of transformation, starting with their people.

2. Working habits of modern finance: Team building is now about assembling power players in finance that can work at a more collaborative, faster pace to influence business decisions. Stronger business acumen and collaboration skills are a must for teams wanting to partner with other functional groups or third-party providers like outsourcing providers and analytics support vendors. This requires a work environment that supports cross-teaming and agile ways of working.

The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) created the modern finance workplace to enable just that. The components of change sound familiar: daily stand-up meetings and huddle boards to improve interactions and give teams clarity on how what they do impacts somebody else. The RAF’s new working practices get people comfortable with sharing and managing variable workloads at a faster pace. The result: finance is now influencing business, including those who don’t intuitively grasp numbers, by communicating insight in creative ways.

Our benchmarking data shows that finance budgets overall are not shrinking, but rather shifting as savvy finance leaders plow cost savings into the next round of transformation, starting with their people.

In fact, this type of leadership is key to transformation. When we ask what needs to change for a more effective finance function five of the top six areas of change relate to leading people.


  • Think pro-finance and pro-people at the same time. Assess where people’s skills are today for the specific outcomes in your finance transformation. Think rotational programs, shadowing and learning that allow people to demonstrate underutilized skills.
  • Use personas to imagine new roles for finance. A persona is a fictional representation of who will play a role. Thinking in this way helps you design your future-state organization. Do you need “problem solvers” with business acumen? “Value drivers” that can look at trade-offs across a wide range of scenarios? Or “dreamers” who can visualize stories, innovate and experiment?
  • Take down productivity and collaboration barriers. Use workflow automation tools, digital social hubs and chat tools to modernize the workplace. But it’s just as important to break organizational silos and recognize how spans and layers, work habits or cultural traits hold people back from trusting each other and collaborating.

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Robert Bishop

Consumer and Industrial Products & Services Finance Leader, PwC US

Christopher Dimuzio

Finance Transformation Leader, PwC US

Ed Shapiro

Director of Finance Effectiveness, PwC US

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