About 300 finance professionals, including CFOs, are steaming mad.
That’s the number of people who signed a petition launched by the tech startup Datarails to voice their frustration with the use of antiquated tech in finance and want an upgrade to tech like A.I. and machine learning. Datarails and fintechs like Tipalti, Mesh Payments, and PayEm are among the companies aiming to create a movement to “make finance teams strategic leaders,” as the petition notes. Sruthi Lanka, CFO of Public.com, an investing platform, and CJ Gustafson, CFO at PartsTech, an automotive ordering platform, and Kathy Svetina, founder and fractional CFO at Newcastle Finance, are among the finance chiefs who’ve signed, according to Datarails.
The group is launching a new video ad today showing a CFO who “clones himself to address all the mundane tasks.” “Everyone who has ever worked in a finance department faces the same situation,” Datarails CFO Zviki Shimon, said in a statement. “Despite great intentions to be strategic we can sometimes end up becoming poor clones of ourselves.”
So it may behoove Datarails, which offers financial planning and analysis (FP&A) platforms for Microsoft Excel, and the other companies on board, to compel CFOs to modernize finance tech. But given the level of engagement on the topic of antiquated tech on LinkedIn, especially in the FP&A function, they are clearly onto something.
What FP&A professionals are saying
FP&A professionals are increasingly playing a big role in the CFO’s office. Gartner recently predicted that by 2025, 50% of FP&A leaders will have enterprise-wide data strategy as a key responsibility. I asked two influencers on LinkedIn who post about finance, and have more than 280,000 followers combined, what they’re hearing from FP&A professionals that CFOs should know.
“The biggest thing for CFOs, is just make sure they’re listening to the FP&A team,” Paul Barnhurst, known as The FP&A Guy, and host of the weekly podcast FP&A Today, told me. “I think sometimes they don’t appreciate the amount of manual work that their FP&A team is doing because they see the end result.”
Barnhurst was an FP&A leader at American Express for nine years, and he also served in the same capacity at Solera, Inc. Over a year ago, he decided to start his own business, first providing direct consulting on FP&A, now his focus is on corporate training.
If you polled the average FP&A professional, they’re spending about half of their time doing manual tasks, Barnhurst says. But he also says there’s a need for upskilling. “The vast majority of FP&A professionals are not using the tools they have,” he explains. Like underutilizing Excel, he says.
“FP&A leaders often feel like they’re caught in between a rock and a hard place,” says Anders Liu-Lindberg, cofounder, partner, and COO of the Business Partnering Institute, a consulting firm on the practice of business partnering in the finance function. Liu-Lindberg, who is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been blogging on LinkedIn since 2014 about finance and previously served in several leadership roles, including controller and head of global finance.
He’s hearing from FP&A leaders who are “stuck with antiquated planning processes, such as budgets, disparate data sources, a spaghetti tool landscape, and spreadsheet jockey team members that rarely leave their cubicle,” he explains. “I know this is painting a quite harsh picture and the reality is of course more nuanced,” Liu-Lindberg adds. “However, FP&A leaders want to innovate, use the latest tools, and upskill their teams. This is what CFOs need to know.”
But at the same time, finance professionals are worried about automation, Liu-Lindberg says. Some want to learn to code to be “masters of data and analytics,” he says. “However, the end game for most is to generate insights to be used for influencing business decisions and have an impact on business value creation,” he explains. “This comes down to soft skills like communication, relationship-building, and the art of influencing.”
Liu-Lindberg continues, “We often ask finance professionals we encounter on various engagements if communication is important to their careers. It’s close to 10 out of 10 on average. Yet, on the same scale, they rate below five on how much training they have received.”
Both Barnhurst and Liu-Lindberg tell me they don’t think automation will replace the need for hiring an FP&A professional. Conversations about the dynamics between advanced tech and the human element will surely continue.
The 2023 Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Compensation Report released on May 9 found treasury and finance professionals realized a 5% gain in their base salaries in 2022, up from a 4.4% increase in 2021. Executive-tier professionals and staff-tier professionals earned an average increase of 5% and 4.8%, respectively. Management-tier professionals saw a 5.3% increase, according to the report.
Fifty-nine percent of treasury and finance professionals agree that their organizations face a talent shortage within their functions. Respondents said the competitive job market (70%) is the top reason for this shortage. The biggest challenges for treasury and finance professionals are limited resources (42%), volume of work (40%), and recruitment of staffing/personnel (37%). The findings are based on the survey responses of 1,408 treasury and finance professionals conducted in February.
Willis Towers Watson's new Dynamics of Work Survey, found U.S. companies are making significant changes in how work gets done. The number of companies in the U.S. that automate some of their work is expected to climb to 74% in three years, up from 65% this year and 51% three years ago. Respondents also said they expect over half of their employees (55%) will work either fully remotely or hybrid in three years, compared with 15% before the pandemic, according to the report.
Marcus Glover was named EVP and CFO at Bally's Corporation (NYSE: BALY). Bobby Lavan, Bally's current CFO, will be leaving the company to pursue another opportunity. Most recently, Glover served as chief strategy officer for QPSI LLC, a supply chain solutions and contract packaging company. Before that, he served as president and COO of the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, and president and COO of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. Glover was also a senior executive with Caesars Entertainment in various positions, including SVP and general manager for the Horseshoe Casino and Thistledown Racino, assistant general manager at Harrah's/Caesars Entertainment St. Louis, Mo., and VP of operations at Harrah's/Caesars Entertainment in Biloxi, Miss.
Gary W. Ferrera was named EVP and CFO at Driven Brands Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: DRVN), an automotive services company, effective May 10. Ferrera succeeds Tiffany Mason. Most recently, Ferrera served as the CFO of Skillsoft Corporation, an educational software company. Before Skillsoft, he spent four years as the CFO of Cardtronics, PLC, an owner/operator of ATMs. He also served as CFO at DigitalGlobe, Inc., Intrawest Resorts Holdings, Inc., Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., National CineMedia, Inc., and Unity Media. Before becoming a CFO, Ferrera spent close to a decade as an investment banker in both New York and London.
"It’s clear that the solution to the challenges presented by remote and hybrid work is not to return to traditional in-person work models. Instead, companies must learn to adapt and embrace the unique opportunities that these new environments offer. By doing so, they can enjoy increased productivity, reduced attrition, and access to a global talent market."
—Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, wrote in a Fortune opinion piece about flexible work.
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