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The empowered enterprise: How CFOs are putting insight at the heart of a purpose and performance-driven business


And new technology, particularly artificial intelligence and machine learning, are helping CFOs make sense of data in real time.


“One of the biggest benefits is that the volume of data is spreading across the organisation – now as CFO I’m looking at data across the business, not just internal but external data,” he says.


“That might be industry-specific data, customer data, competitor data and so on. And, increasingly, we will use AI to organise the data and highlight potential challenges and opportunities. “Think of accounts receivables,” he continues. “If we can highlight your top five customers that are likely to default based on the data you have access to, such as past performance and invoice discrepancies – pulling all that data together helps highlight where the receivable collection focus should be. Being able to get through such high volumes with speed is a game changer.”


And that’s not the only example of data married to intelligent analysis. “Touchless accounts payable is certainly possible, but it takes two to tango,” Fitzpatrick points out. Vendors also need to be up to speed in terms of automation. “It’s that combination of process and industry expertise coupled with the right technology that is essential.” Because, as Andy Halford explains, data for its own sake is close to useless. How it is used to improve the business represents the real step forward. “Ultimately, I think that finance functions will increasingly be judged by the quality of the advice that they’re giving to the management team and in a way the traditional processing of data will be done by default,” he says.


advantage. Companies across sectors must consider every piece of insight to help them to understand why customers behave the way they do, and how to deliver products and services to meet those needs. And increasingly that goes beyond simple quantitative data into unstructured, qualitative data gathered through, for example, social media and other sources.


This data provides the opportunity to see gaps in services, consumer needs and experiences and plug those with partnerships that benefit both parties. As a CFO working in financial services, Andy Halford is well aware that the competition from the new digital challengers presents a great opportunity to drive growth, develop new income streams and provide the services and experience customers want and businesses can learn from. Halford’s experience using technology to drive better strategy is especially compelling. Standard Charted has, in recent years, used a data-led approach to secure partnerships with competing players in the sector – many of which lack the necessary capability to meet rigorous regulatory requirements.


“With our KONE 24/7 connected services solution, we are actually getting real-time feedback on the usage of those elevators. And the more data you get, the quicker you learn. I think that’s quite an exciting position to be in.”


Ilkka Hara, Kone


“So CFOs need to use data to deliver a 360ºview of the business: about how you make information more forward-looking and less backward-looking, and how to determine if it could add value to what the business does, rather than simply presenting interesting facts.”


Working smart Widening out the net to include internal and external data is a powerful way to secure competitive


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“Some of those businesses that have direct customer contact don’t want to actually get into the details of all that complex banking delivery,” Halford says, explaining that Standard Chartered have worked with retailers to integrate a wider set of financial services into their offering. “If we can help them make the purchasing process simpler, through the use of a simple bolt-on which offers customers the chance to access credit facilities for other products, we can actually make that process seamless, and leave it with the other party to actually deliver.” That type of intelligent partnering, Halford believes, represents a benefit for all parties.


But of course, it relies on technology that can flex and scale as the business opens up new markets. In other words, innovation must sit at the heart of that process, as evidenced by one of Standard Chartered’s flagship projects currently running in Indonesia, where the bank has partnered with an online retailer to seamlessly offer credit products via the retailer’s website – offering the customer the chance to buy more with fewer clicks. The aim is to combine Standard Chartered’s credit checking abilities with the retailer’s well-developed customer service offering, and the collaborative project then allows for increased credit availability among various consumer groups. Halford adds, “The front end is seamless – why would a bank choose to not go down that route? It will still do the same credit vetting but with the right partner, it may source more interesting retail customers and therefore there could be a win-win in that situation.”


Finance Director Europe / www.ns-businesshub.com


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