I was a divisional FD/Financial Controller at a company when I found out that the CFO had been frauding the company over a four-year period.
It was a significant amount of money, into the millions, and it turned my world upside down for about a year. But, I realised that this was only made possible because of poor processes, lack of integration and poor control, and because of this, I was left feeling responsible because I couldn’t improve the technology and human ecosystem finance, as it wasn’t a priority.
So, after doing a hell of a lot of forensic work and securing a global freezing injunction and reinstating much of the fraud monies back which in turn brought the company into profit for the first time in several years, I thought enough was enough and I moved from being in core finance to finance transformation, where I could be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Move with the times
This was a good 15-20 years ago when finance transformation was in its infancy and much of the technology we have available to us now was not available. A lot of the benefits of finance transformation was purely labour arbitrageur moving headcount from one country to another and establishing shared services where the fragmented process could be controlled centrally, therefore, saving headcount
But the world has moved on drastically in the last 15-20 years, and even more so in the five years, whichever way you cut it, we have far more powerful tools, more data, far more ways of improving our effectiveness or efficiency in finance and it’s no longer a conversation about headcount reduction or labour arbitrageur, it’s about the role of finance being a business partner and a co-creator of value with the business this means leaving the traditional role and the processing of finance operations behind or up to the robots.
Learn more about finance transformation, here!
When I started the shift to finance transformation it wasn’t a popular place to be, people in finance saw it as a backwards move. As I moved away from the business and an opportunity that you would take if you were a high performer looking for a promotion, but even that has changed.
Now modern CFOs are unlikely to be employed if they do not have systems implementation experience if they do not understand what is possible with new technology and as businesses become more and more aligned to the digital world and data becomes more important to be competitive in the market a deep understanding of business analytics and financial analytics, as well as operational efficiencies around intelligent automation, its super important to the CFOs credibility and future.
The beginning of an exciting journey
But when I started this journey, I have to say it was a lonely place, I couldn’t find many people in finance who were interested in getting out of their status quo of the difficult month and poor integration. I found that the last thing on a long ‘to-do list’ was internal technology investment and going on a journey to understand what technology can do within the finance function. So, I set up a LinkedIn group looking for like-minded people and that’s where I had an epiphany that I was not alone.
The group has now been going for almost 12 years and it’s grown organically, it is now a community of almost 100,000 people. The numbers and the size of it are not what is important, I am not an influencer, I don’t care about the number of followers I have, I’m a practitioner and an advisor, so everyone that I talk to whether an individual in a finance team struggling with a month-end or a CFO looking to prioritise what they do with technology, my joy and passion, is being a part of individuals digital journeys, whether they are transformers or improvers, who probably started out as learners, and I give them absolute credit for going on that journey because chances are they were unsupported in their roles to do so.
Learn more from Generation CFO Live, watch replays, here!
But I believe post-pandemic finance has reached a tipping point. Priorities amongst the finance community have changed, as well as the time old priorities of better business partnering, better efficiency has always been on the list post-pandemic, we see an absolute recognition that it is time to change the way we have worked during the pandemic. The volume of planning and operations that has been done, just to keep businesses going, has saved many, but now we see CFOs investing in upscaling of talent and acknowledgement that there is a gap in the traditional accounting and finance skill set and what we call the digital finance function and acknowledgement that whilst we delivered for companies over the last 12 months it is not a sustainable way of working and agility and ways of working must change.
Don’t wait, the time is now
So, why did I set up Generation CFO? After seeing the growth of the community, the shift that I could see actually happening and the will of the community to improve, and especially now, I believe the time is right to make the shift and start learning about the art of the possible.
It took me a crisis in my career to make this change, it also took me 12 years to get to where I am today, but now we have no excuse you can make the change, the learning, the funding and the support is available and I wish you all the very best in your accounting and finance careers.