" “When it comes to technology, we don’t know what we don’t know! You have to invest in training your people."

By Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

William Fillias

Finance Director, Global Product Strategy


People for technology, and technology for the people: that sums up the approach of William Fillias, Finance Director, Global Product Strategy at GSK and GENCFO Exec Member, to digital transformation in finance.

We sat down for a deep-dive into how the modern finance function is helping the business deliver cutting-edge care for patients.

Embracing the digital age for finance

Bigger, better, and more exciting than ever before. That’s how William describes the effect of digital finance transformation on the role of the CFO:

“It's thanks to digital transformation that senior finance roles have become more interesting."

"We’re now in a position to become truly trusted, strategic partners that can unlock value for an organisation and maximise competitive edge.”

And wherever you’re at in the process of embracing these changes, one thing is for sure: CFOs must be prepared to ride the wave of digital transformation in finance for years to come:

“If there is an end to this journey - which I’m not sure there is -  we are definitely in the middle. It’s a continuous change.”

Steering the digital finance function in the right direction is bound to vary from business to business, but for William, controversially, trusty Excel might be left behind:

“It’s true - we’re moving away from Excel from a reporting standpoint. Excel will be retained for a variety of other purposes, but when it comes to standard reporting there’s lots of compelling reasons why you don’t need it.”

Instead, William has been on a personal mission to spearhead a transition to Microsoft Power BI for data-mining and the creation of data lakes which he says have been crucial to the business’s success.

However, according to William, automation is where the real action is at with AI capabilities enabling the most cutting-edge advancements:

“I’m seeing extraordinary progress made in the AI and machine learning space. Automated forecasting is becoming embedded in algorithms across all different functions of the company, and it's adding incredible value for business leaders.”

For CFOs reckoning with a wildly unpredictable world - where anything from global pandemics to political conflicts can scupper even the best laid plans - the benefits for scenario planning are where William sees the greatest potential:

“Finance leaders are constantly expected to have answers for more than one scenario - we’re in danger of drowning in seas of spreadsheets with multiple iterations."

"That’s where digital transformation can have a huge impact, allowing for online systems where changing a single parameter can create a range of outputs. It’s crucial to have these embedded functionalities to take on the world of tomorrow.”

Adapting to overcome barriers to finance transformation

By now CFOs are all too familiar with the struggle to hire the best, fresh, tech-savvy talent for the digital finance function. But are you overlooking the value to be unlocked from upskilling existing members of the team?

“When it comes to technology, we don’t know what we don’t know! You have to invest in training your people. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and vocalise at every opportunity I get, because it’s a key part of digital finance transformation that people don’t talk about enough.”

If digital finance transformation is a process of continuous change, it stands to reason that finding someone new for every new tool on the market is a quick road to recruitment and retention disaster. Instead, William highlights the need for a culture of constant investment in your greatest digital transformation asset: your people.

“It’s a bit like being given a Ferrari without a key! You can have the best system in integrated planning and squeaky clean datasets throughout, but if you don't invest in training your people to maximise the use and understanding of these systems, you’ll achieve only a fraction of the benefit.”

And with so much pressure to achieve more in less time, relying on employees to pick things up as they go along isn’t enough:

"The more advanced technology becomes, the last thing you can reasonably expect people to do is simply self-train."

"You have to keep people involved at every stage. I put that at the forefront of success.”

A human touch to finance technology

For all his enthusiasm for state-of-the-art technology, it’s the human beings that benefit from it all that inspire the incredible work William does:

“Having worked in the pharma industry for so many years, what motivates me is delivering for patients, and -  most importantly - being ambitious for patients. Knowing that I've contributed to the development of breakthrough medicine is what gets me up in the morning.”

His advice for aspiring CFOs with ambitions as big as his own?

“Be curious! Don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge the way things are done."

"As you work your way up, seize opportunities to play an active part in influencing senior management and drive the cultural change needed for digital finance transformation.”

All in all he believes it’s a particularly exciting time to be a leader in finance:

“There’s never been so many ways in finance to deliver value to an organisation and to your colleagues. Now’s the time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in!”

William is one of GENCFO's Exec Members. If you want to learn more about becoming a member, click here.

Power Profile

Who is your hero?

"Aside from my wife, in a business context I have a lot of admiration for Elon Musk. I think he’s built success pretty much everywhere he’s been, and he can talk about even the most mundane things in an interesting manner. He shows a great deal of intellectual curiosity and he knows how to ask the right questions to the right people. "

What music inspires you?

"I’m inspired by a wide variety of music, but if I had to take one discography away on a trip it would be Aretha Franklin. For me, she’s the greatest of all time - there’s an Aretha Franklin song for every mood and occasion!"


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Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

Olivia is an author at GENCFO as well as being the Community Success Manager. Read her articles on everything from events, agility, hot topics in finance and interviews with key finance and accounting industry figures.

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