articles | 15 July 2021 | EY Cyprus

EY: Finance leaders rethink roles and responsibilities as new operating reality sets in

Disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainties are providing an opportunity for leading finance executives to rethink the role of their function and how corporate reporting can be structured and delivered. This is according to the sixth annual EY Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS) survey, How can corporate reporting connect your business to its true value?

  • 53% of finance leaders surveyed say more than half of current tasks could be automated over the next three years
  • 54% think it is likely that blockchain-based systems will underpin finance
  • 63% have concerns about the risks of using artificial intelligence in finance and reporting

The survey of more than 1,000 CFOs and financial controllers across 26 countries shows that finance leaders anticipate their function to look very different in the future, with a major shift to a smarter operating model. Fifty-three per cent of respondents think it is likely that more than half of the finance and reporting tasks currently performed by people will be executed by artificial intelligence (AI) over the next three years. Similarly, 54% think it is likely that blockchain-based systems will underpin finance.

To make the most of smart technologies in corporate reporting, however, respondents identify building trust as a key prerequisite. As such, more than two thirds (68%) of responding finance leaders say that governance, controls and ethical frameworks still need to be developed and refined for AI.

Without those frameworks, finance leaders (63%) are concerned about the risk implications of using AI in finance and reporting, from security threats to regulatory risk. At the same time, many respondents do not have complete trust in the output of these systems, with 47% saying that the quality of the finance data produced by AI cannot be trusted in the same way as data from traditional finance systems. 

Putting finance at the heart of sustainable long-term value reporting

As investors and other stakeholders are looking to organizations to adopt a longer-term perspective and focus on long-term value creation, the survey shows that the majority of responding CFOs and financial controllers (72%) are embracing this shift. More than two thirds (69%) of respondents say that CFOs and senior finance leaders are increasingly seen by key stakeholders as the stewards of long-term value in their organization. 

Two thirds (66%) of finance leaders also say that demand for forward-looking financial analyses and forecasts has increased over the last 12-months. Respondents to the survey report that stakeholders are also looking for new insights on nonfinancial factors of corporate reporting, such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) data (55%). This increasing focus on high-quality nonfinancial information is reinforced by 65% of respondents, who believe there is significant value for their organization that is not measured or communicated using traditional financial KPIs, such as brand value and human capital.

Stavros Violaris, Associate Partner, Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS) Leader and Cyprus Insurance Sector Leader at EY Cyprus, commented: “Finance functions are being transformed by the increasing use of smart technologies, which the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated. CFOs will need to work hard on building trust into the se new technologies and the insights they provide. Meanwhile, they will also have to play a central role in meeting stakeholders’ changing expectations helping corporations to provide timely and accurate reporting regarding nonfinancial factors, such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) data, if they are to maintain their relevance within organisations”.  

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