A very warm welcome to our event. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us here. It is my great pleasure to join you at today’s launch of the research report, titled “Digital Transformation in Finance Functions: ASEAN and UK Perspectives”. This research is a joint collaboration between the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
This is the fourth consecutive year that ISCA and ICAEW are collaborating to provide thought leadership on key topics at the forefront of changes impacting the accountancy profession. The report pinpoints common challenges in achieving finance transformation. It also identifies key lessons from how change has been achieved in practice, and shares examples of success. This piece seeks to provide guidance for senior and middle management-level accountancy professionals who are involved in, or considering undertaking, finance transformation projects.
The case for finance transformation in a digital age
The term “business transformation” has been a buzzword in recent years. There has been a multitude of calls and support for businesses to harness technology to transform themselves to thrive and overcome disruption, and many have embarked on the journey.
Such transformation usually focuses on the business side of things, such as to improve the productivity of business operations through automation. However, not much has been said about the transformation of the finance function in particular. How will the finance function need to change to meet future demands? Is there an expectation gap between the finance function and businesses?
Yet, the fact that you are here today affirms that there is a belief among accountancy professionals that the finance function can do more to reinvent itself; and with the help of digital tools available in the market today, can rethink the boundaries of what is possible.
If we need a light-bulb moment, let us turn to Philips Lighting, or Signify, as it was rebranded in 2018, to illuminate us. Once, it was a traditional company merely selling lighting products. Today, it positions itself as a leader in Internet of Things (IoT)-based lighting solutions.
By being aware of current trends in technology and customer expectations, and reimagining the needs of tomorrow, Signify is able to expand its value to customers in areas like design, installation and finance, and breathe new life into its business model.
Reskilling & changing mindsets of accountancy professionals
Likewise, the new economy of the future presents new challenges and opportunities to Singapore and the accountancy profession. It is critical for accountancy professionals not just to keep abreast of business trends, but also to learn new skills and subsequently utilise these new skills to become active business partners to their senior management and the Board.
I am not talking only about digital skills, though knowledge of how to perform data visualisation or basic coding are skills increasingly sought after in finance teams. Throughout our research, a common theme among finance leaders we interviewed, was the importance of having the business context in mind – this means being able to connect the dots between financial and non-financial data, so as to provide relevant insights and advice on the business implications. This would enable accountancy professionals to be more business savvy.
To be active business partners requires a shift in mindset and skillsets among accountancy professionals in finance functions – for example, to be more forward-looking and innovative, and adopt a more collaborative approach with its key stakeholders.
As part of our continuing efforts to promote lifelong learning and support accountancy professionals to stay relevant in a constantly changing business and professional environment, ISCA launched the Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Framework last September. It provides an overview on the five key DNAs of PAIBs, one of which is Future Finance. The Framework ties in with a corresponding PAIB Learning Roadmap which identifies skills and competencies required by PAIBs, and recommends relevant learning opportunities for them. For those who are interested to know more, do visit our website for more details.
In the words of Bill Gates, “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.” Similarly, a finance function should not operate in a silo, as it interfaces, interacts with and impacts all other departments in the entity. It is a strategic part of an entity’s operations and it needs to understand the business to value-add to the entity.
Today’s event is an excellent platform for sharing of ideas and lessons by like-minded and forward-looking accountancy and finance professionals. I wish you a fruitful session ahead. Thank you.