30 May 2023
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global business landscape has undergone a remarkable transformation, fueled by the widespread adoption of hybrid and remote work arrangements. This shift has raised a fundamental question: can C-suites effectively function without the traditional paradigm of face-to-face communications? As organizations embrace digitalization and adapt to new ways of operating, leaders must recognize the evolving dynamics and challenges that arise in this digital era.
To delve more into this topic, DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Wilber Ng, Country Manager, Singapore, AICPA & CIMA. Wilber has more than a decade of experience in the finance field, covering Banks, Fintech and Private Education. He has experience in management of teams, business development, complex partnership and expansion of regions in the United States of America, Europe and Southeast Asia. During the course of his career, Wilber has led teams from different regions to build successful expansion pipelines through strategic planning from high level budgeting and forecasting.
During the interview, he shed light on the critical role of CFOs in navigating this transformative landscape. By exploring the importance of collaborative decision-making, harnessing the power of data storytelling, and redefining organizational purpose, Wilber uncovered the key strategies for driving innovation, resilience, and long-term growth in today’s dynamic business environment.
The Importance of Face-to-Face Communications in C-Suites during the Era of Hybrid and Remote Work
In the current era of hybrid and remote work arrangements, the question arises: can C-suites effectively function without face-to-face communications? Recent research conducted for a blog post by the International Monetary Fund highlights the significant rise in digitalization triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. This surge in digital transformation has been particularly evident in economies or industries that were previously lagging behind. Remote work and the shift to online operations have enabled numerous companies to survive lockdowns and navigate COVID-19 restrictions successfully.
As the momentum toward the digitization of the economy continues to accelerate, businesses must adapt their approaches to managing performance. Traditional methods are no longer sufficient to foster responsiveness and resilience. In collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the AICPA’s research underscores the importance of adopting innovative performance management strategies that leverage the talents of employees, align with the business model, and actively engage stakeholders.
For business leaders striving to build innovative and resilient organizations, creating an environment where people feel engaged in driving business strategies is crucial, irrespective of the work models in place. This entails cultivating a performance culture—an atmosphere where employees are empowered, motivated, passionate, and deeply invested in their work, resulting in strategy-driven value creation.
Initiating Collaboration in the C-Suite: The Role of CFOs
The rapidly evolving business landscape demands that CFOs move beyond number-crunching and a singular focus on the company’s balance sheet. They must pivot toward analytics, leveraging the vast amount of data at their disposal to ensure that business decisions effectively drive innovation and create value. Wilber states that “our own research on the future of finance has found that a digitally savvy CFO and finance function can enhance the agility of the business by providing a trusted source of information and a strategic overview.”
To foster innovation, CFOs must master the art of data storytelling. They should communicate data insights throughout the organization, informing strategic decisions at every level. Additionally, business partnering plays an increasingly vital role in the CFO’s responsibilities.
Collaboration with various internal stakeholders also enables CFOs to extract insights and develop a comprehensive understanding of how value is generated within the business. Accomplishing these goals requires a blend of accounting, digital, business management, and interpersonal skills, allowing effective collaboration with colleagues from diverse disciplines, as well as external stakeholders.
The Significance of C-Minus One Executives’ Opinions in Decision-Making
To become effective business partners, accounting and finance professionals must proactively engage with other areas of the business, fostering inclusivity. Wilber further emphasizes that “the finance team is positioned to look across the organization objectively, and by analyzing a wide range of data, it offers powerful information to the teams it supports.”
This cross-functional partnership expands the influence of the finance team, enabling accounting and finance professionals to lead their organizations toward sustainable success at all levels.
Internal Collaboration as a Catalyst for Long-Term Growth
Reflecting on the lessons learned from the past three years, Wilber emphasizes that managing businesses today must differ from previous approaches. In today’s dynamic and complex environment, focusing solely on financial data to assess performance, drive long-term strategies, and generate sustainable value is no longer sufficient.
While profitability remains a fundamental element of any long-term business strategy, finance leaders must challenge the prevailing notion that an organization’s best interest primarily lies in profit maximization. Instead, they should seek more sustainable ways of doing business, prioritize the creation of long-term value, and strengthen accountability to benefit investors, society, and promote sustainable economic growth. In essence, finance leaders must reimagine how they define and approach organizational purpose.
Finance and accounting professionals hold a pivotal role within organizations, positioned at the intersection of finance, business, and management. Their responsibility is to provide, analyze, utilize, and communicate decision-relevant financial and non-financial information, empowering businesses to seize opportunities and mitigate risks. Consequently, they play a vital part in facilitating the transition to integrated thinking across organizations, enhancing strategic decision-making, and generating and preserving value for all stakeholders.
The foremost challenge for business leaders lies in reimagining value creation for all stakeholders and embedding it into the business model while measuring results. In order to survive and thrive, businesses must adapt to the changing landscape, both now and in the future.