How CFOs navigate the future of finance

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Top financial executives face a conundrum.

Their personal and professional success and reputations ride on the ability to focus on strategy — contributing to the overall, forward-looking success of their companies. But such tasks as financial reporting, people management, and navigating a complex technological landscape can eat up most of a chief financial officer’s time and energy.

“Transactions need to get processed without any errors or fraud. They need to be able close the books in a timely fashion, produce financial statements, provide investor reporting,” says Scott Tynes, CEO of Austin-based Consero, which provides finance as a service for growth-stage companies. “But they make a name for themselves if they can be the key driver for the business, help the company plan strategically around the finance function, be the right hand to the CEO, understand the key drivers of the business. They just can’t do that if they’re getting sucked into all the tactical stuff.”

Tactical challenges

That tactical stuff includes such personnel issues as hiring the right people for the finance and accounting department, training them and making sure that no one individual is the only person capable of performing a certain function.

“Half of the time gets wasted on people management,” Tynes says. “You’re doing the interview process. You’re hiring. You’re training, onboarding. You’re figuring out how to backfill. There’s a lot of inefficiencies.”

It also, increasingly, covers matters of rapidly changing technology. “The technology landscape is changing really quickly within the finance function, and you’ve got to be aware of those things and all that comes with a bunch of headaches,” Tynes says. Questions like, “What software packages do I use? Does this core package work with this other software package? How do I deploy it? What if it’s a bad implementation?” can come to dominate a CFO’s time.

“There’s a ton of wasted time researching and trying to pick the exact right technology tools for finance,” he says. “Even a small company is using a general ledger, which is a technology tool. They’re probably using an electronic payment process, which is a different technology tool. They’re using some order to cash process, which is a different technology tool. They may be using a budgeting and forecasting tool.”

Researching and implementing all those tools eats up time and effort that should be spent on more strategically important aspects of businesses. Further, Tynes says, those tools are built with accountants in mind rather than general business people. That leads to a lack of transparency between the finance function and other key business stakeholders.

Perhaps the biggest inefficiency is that the hiring and technology research happens over and over again, Tynes says. “There are a lot of inefficiencies in hiring people and buying software. One of the things that we see is that literally every time there’s a new company, that company is recreating the finance and accounting wheel. They’re designing from scratch an accounts payable process, designing from scratch how they invoice and get paid by their customers.”

How it can work

The insight behind Consero, which recently raised $50 million from investors, is that it can provide the technology and personnel so that the finance function doesn’t have to be reinvented with every new company. “Let’s just build the wheel and let people plug into something that’s already a well-oiled machine,” Tynes says.

Plugging into a machine where the technology and processes are already mapped out and functioning can save nine to 18 months and be implemented in 30-60 days, freeing a CFO for more strategically effective work, Tynes says. That includes aggregating vast amounts of information and artificial intelligence to ensure all financial information is accurate, up-to-date and produced in the most efficient and automated way possible.

Many business operations now feature instant access to the latest information and can be accessed with a smartphone. Tynes says finance functions should be as easily accessible. “If the finance function doesn’t work like that, people get frustrated. They say, ‘Why can’t I have something that’s real-time and aggregated?'”

Consero, as part of its overall finance as a service offering, has developed SIMPL, an aggregation platform that combines financial dashboards, real-time information, transaction details and support documents in one place, allowing for that transparency. In addition, the company is beta testing Simon, a voice-activated artificial intelligence bot that will serve as a Siri or Alexa of the finance information within companies.

“This just puts everything at their fingertips,” Tynes says.

Learn more about Consero’s finance as service offerings, including requesting a demo.

Consero provides solutions for high-growth, mid-market companies with a superior alternative to building and maintaining an in-house finance function. It also offers solutions in strategy and funding services, operational financial services, financial controller services, bookkeeping and administration services and a cloud software platform.
Kent Bernhard is a freelance writer for The Business Journals.