" “I’m the first person to put their hand up and ask the stupid questions, because they’re usually not stupid at all!'

By Christopher Argent, Founder, GENCFO

Lubnah Alam

Director of Finance Operations

EG Group

If variety is the spice of life, Lubnah Alam brings it in spades to her professional life:

“Diversity of working has been the biggest asset to my career. It’s what honed my ability to work so well with different people and different stakeholders in a business.”

We sat down to hear her pick of the best cross-sector learnings from finance roles in manufacturing retail, education and the public sector, and how finance transformation has been the key to an illustrious career in shared services.

Streamlining the digital finance function

Cutting through the nonsense to get to the heart of business problems is not only where Lubnah thrives - it’s also where she sees the biggest potential for digital transformation in finance: 

“In the past, the finance function has massively over-complicated things. I describe it as layers and layers of sticking plasters over a problem!"

"Different people come in over the years and apply temporary fixes, but I like getting to the root of an issue.”

Instead, Lubnah is always looking for where finance can add the most value to a business. It’s a refreshing approach, but one that involves changing the perspective of the people around her to make work: 

“For me, digital finance transformation is about stripping things back and shifting the focus to value add activities. From a shared service perspective, where once it was viewed as a non-value add back office, people now understand it as a function with the ability to analyse data and address business problems in a meaningful way.”

At EG Group, that’s looked like a wealth of exciting tech implementations, particularly in the automation space:

"RPA (robotic process automation) has been a game-changer because it’s gotten rid of the noise around repetitive processes that are non-value add. Rather than people feeling threatened at the idea of being replaced by robots, they’re excited about RPA because it frees them up to do work that’s more challenging and rewarding than manual input.” 

It just goes to show the power of a positive mentality when it comes to ensuring your team embraces digital transformation in finance. But Lubnah isn’t one to sugar-coat the teething problems along the way. In fact, frank discussions about when things aren’t working have been key to continuous improvement: 

“I’m the first person to put their hand up and ask the stupid questions, because they’re usually not stupid at all! If something doesn’t make sense to you about how things are going, you’ve got to challenge it.”

Strategies for digital transformation in finance

Despite leading a range of finance transformations across a wealth of sectors over the years, Lubnah has seen one thing stay the same: human resistance to change. 

“People always underestimate the change management piece of the problem! The challenge is keeping business stakeholders engaged every step of the way."

"Remember, it’s not just about finance when you do a finance transformation, you have to think of the knock-on effects for all areas of the business.” Lubnah cites training, good communication and a top-down approach as her best advice for keeping people onboard throughout any finance transformation process. 

But while you might be in a hurry to pull out all the stops and dive into implementing a new technology with all guns blazing, for Lubnah the success of any transformation is all in the pacing:

“Nobody takes enough time to actually understand the causes behind the need for finance transformation. Everyone focuses on the destination and the shiny new system they think is going to fix things, but you have to understand point A before you can get to point B! Jumping ahead can cause chaos, so for me it’s crucial to document and understand where you’ve started.” 

Charting progress and taking stock of where you’re at is a common pitfall that doesn’t get talked about enough in conversations about what makes digital finance transformation a success, according to Lubnah: 

“Never underestimate the reporting that needs doing along the way. I see it time and again where reporting falls to the wayside during digital transformation, because people doubt its necessity. But for me, it’s how you measure the success of a project every step of the way.”

A modern finance mindset

While many may shy away from the challenges of finance transformation, for Lubnah, it’s adversity that fuels her determination:

“I’ve come to realise I don’t really enjoy BAU. I’m not one for going to work and just running the ship smoothly home, I enjoy problems! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’d kill for a normal day! But I like to have a vision for how we can take the business to new heights. You don’t get there without turbulence along the way.”

Keeping one eye on the future inspires Lubnah to embrace digital transformation in finance, and she’s a big believer that every finance director and CFO can do the same: 

“I don’t think finance transformation should be rocket science, a lot of it is common sense! You just have to focus on getting people on board and taking them with you for the journey.” 

In Lubnah’s words, people are her biggest asset, which means making sure they’re supported is key:

“Surround yourself with the right people with the right expertise. Trust them, let them get on with it and make sure you have their back. Today’s CFOs need to have vision, the minute you sell a vision to someone, they’re bought in. It’s the best way to keep your team on-side.”

Power Profile

Who is your hero?

"My husband is my hero. But we’re very different! I'm an accountant so i'm very risk averse; I plan and organise everything. He’s an entrepreneur at heart; if he believes in an idea he doesn’t care what anybody thinks, he just cracks on with it. Sometimes Iwish I could be more like that!"

What music inspires you?

"Sometimes it’s the musician that inspires me more than their music. A great example of that is Lewis Capaldi. I already loved his music, but when I watched his documentary about living with Tourette’s syndrome and saw the vision behind his songs, his music meant a whole lot more to me."


author image
Christopher Argent, Founder, GENCFO

Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!

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