Fatihah Ramzi, DigitalCFO Asia | 3 March 2022
Mette Ingeman Pedersen
Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank
Finance professionals must boost effectiveness and flexibility to thrive in today’s fiercely competitive business market, especially if their business objectives include driving critical change and digitalization to keep up with increasing growth, offering new goods, or becoming a worldwide corporation. This entails comprehending the rapidly changing corporate landscape, which is undergoing a digital revolution.
The digital age has brought with it not only new technology that have transformed the way business is done, but also new threats and problems. The emotional intelligence of skilled financial professionals is combined with the correct technologies in the future of finance. Incorporating the appropriate tools and software into company processes allows for more intelligent decisions, increased efficiency, and increased production. The future of finance also looks at diversifying and encouraging more women to take on financial roles.
DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer of Saxo Bank, who was in Singapore to attend the new office opening ceremony. Saxo Bank has been in Singapore since 2006 and just moved to a new office at CapitaSpring.
Future Of Finance In The Next 5 Years
If we start from the perspective of CFOs, the speed at which business decisions, supported by real time data are made, will change. Companies can continue to expect a lot of real-time data but the speed at which it is being translated into business decisions will change in the next 5 years. As financial professionals, one of our core competencies would be to bring forward reliable, timely and quality data so with the speed of decision-making going on, the time to produce data is extremely short.
As finance professionals, they can expect themselves to get into interpreter roles when in situations that require them to do finance partnering as it goes back to the competency in providing decisions based on readily-available data. This will both be a challenge and an opportunity growth for CFOs as it is a skill that can be used not only in making business decisions but it can help the company move within a financial space with the use of financial data as well as non-financial data.
If CFOs bring that into their agenda at large, non-financial decisions also require a lot of data as well as reporting and a lot of the core competencies of financial professionals are flexible and can be used in multiple areas. With that being said, CFOs can expect more bridging of financial and non-financial needs for data-driven decisions and give the necessary support the business requires.
The Effects Of The Pandemic On Customer Relations
The focus is not so much on the pandemic as digital delivery was already pre-existing within each company but, the pandemic brought about larger opportunities as there was an increase in the online spending of customers. There was an increase of purchase in capital market products and for some companies in the finance industry it was a good wake up call in having to come up with solutions on how to better service their customers.
If we take a look at the Asian market, digitalising consumer spending and purchasing has been around for a long while whereas in the European market it just started picking up recently as the necessity for such services have arised. For example, the Reddit fueled activity that was going on last year where new mechanics that were pandemic-driven were put in place. This is because the pandemic has allowed people to get knowledgeable on such services and the need for it drives companies to implement them quickly and efficiently.
It is interesting that things like these were picked up from trends and in the finance perspective, a CFO’s key responsibility will be in managing the portfolio optimisation of resources to whether it be capital, people, infrastructure or so on. In times like these where things move so quickly, financial professionals have to find out what is driving these changes, what is really behind it and where do they need to place their investments.
“This is why I believe that successful finance functions, going forward, really need to be out there in the decision making part of the team because if you do not have this information, there is no way you can reprioritise and rebalance your investments within such a timeframe.”Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank
Recognizing Women In Leadership Positions
Finance as a profession has a challenge that it is seen as masculine. If we were to look at universities and colleges, you will see a majority of men in this economic and finance related fields.
“If we start from a pipeline perspective, I think finance has the same issues as mathematics, engineering and technology but it stems from the same trends at bay,” commented by Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank.
Mette Ingeman read this fantastic piece the other day, which was about women leaders in the world’s big financial institutions and found a commentary on economics which is that “we will find it dry if we think it is simply about mathematics but if we understand it is about the welfare of people, then we should be able to”.
Based on that commentary, Mette believes that finance professionals are not good enough at telling what exactly they are doing. According to Mette, that commentary was immensely motivating to her because it shows that she has the opportunity to change people’s lives. Finance professionals are able to set up the best platforms that makes it relevant so that people can start investing and it has been seen that when women invest, they actually do better on the overall because they think longer and they care more about long-term profits compared to short-term profits and if finance professionals can bridge that gap and make it understood that that is what people get to be part of, more women would want to work and hold leadership positions in finance.
Yes, there are a lot of dry numbers in these jobs but actually, those dry numbers are only a part of what we do. If we were to look at what we do as a whole, we are actually storytelling. CFOs help to shape and move things for the company. This means that we are looking at finance differently and thinking about it as a storyteller that is able to set the scene and drive prosperity within the company. It will be difficult for many women as it is a cultural journey due to the fact that there is insufficient diversity in the finance scene.
Tips On Maturing Financial Automation
One barrier could be that finance professionals are a little bit risk-averse; they know what they have and they are aware that delivering quality is important. Sometimes, it can be daring to think about automation; how to ensure quality, productivity and even profitability. However, when it comes to implementing automation or even updating new softwares, it is not necessarily a lack of will but a lack of comfort in the process that it would take. The reason for that is that finance professionals could think that automation is merely a technical change and with that perspective, it will be hard to implement those changes.
But if they look at it as a “people change”, then it becomes relevant to make such investments even if they do not really understand it. They will need to change how they work with it, what they use it for, make the changes and the competence profile of their people and set more diverse teams in general. It can be done in terms of understanding what a data scientist does and broadening the finance teams with such positions. When maturing the company’s financial automation, there must be a braveness to change, the need to challenge yourself as a financial professional and to bring yourselves out there.
The future of finance will involve further use of real-time data as well the speed in which informed decisions are made with those date. Further digitization of companies will occur with new positions involved as well as new automation in place. This just means that working to get the right people and technology in place will allow companies to have an advantage in facing the inevitable disruption ahead especially during the times of the pandemic. Through diversifying the workplace in every aspect and having clear understanding of key responsibilities as well as core competencies, CFOs are able to take their companies to greater heights.