Four Tenets of Finance as a Service (FaaS): A New Standard of Service

With the proliferation of companies selling “Finance as a Service” (FaaS) options, it may seem as if FaaS is merely a new marketing term for outsourced accounting firms. But for Bill Klein, the co-Founder and President of Consero Global, FaaS is a discipline that lives up to four key tenets of client service.
Outsourcing accounting and finance duties have only grown more popular over the last few decades, with a clear value proposition of reducing HR burden, and ideally freeing up the in-house team to focus on more strategic priorities. The industry has been living up to that promise, as evident by that growth. Recently, a new practice within the sector, known as Finance as a Service, or FaaS, has been taking a greater share of the outsourced accounting industry.

But what exactly is FaaS? And how does it differ from other outsourced accounting and finance alternatives? Bill Klein, the co-founder and President of Consero Global, one of the fasted growing FaaS firms, defines it as something distinct from traditional outsourced accounting 
firm, because FaaS is a far more comprehensive approach to the business, with greater transparency and rigor. Klein believes that any firm marketing themselves as FaaS providers should meet four key tenets of this approach.

Tenet #1: FaaS solutions incorporate a full suite of experienced staff, proven operational processes and pre-integrated software to reliably manage all of a
company’s finance and accounting needs 

Klein believes that FaaS companies are different from traditional accounting services firms and financial software Value Added Resellers (VARs). “Many traditional outsource providers claim to offer all of the components of FaaS but rather than a pre-built platform configured for each customer, they pull from a grab bag of disparate solutions cobbled together on a customer-by-customer basis. For instance, they might offer custom software implementations and add on separate outsourced services for companies who want that. The problem is the outsourced services in that example are really just some accounting staff thrown on top of a grounds up software build combined with whatever process is being used by that customer. There is no way the customer can achieve the levels of quality, efficiency, and reliability of a FaaS solution where specialized team members work with the same baseline processes and software they utilize with every other customer.

Along with the efficiency and quality advantages offered by the FaaS approach, customers are also able to achieve these results must faster than by doing it themselves or by using a traditional outsourced services provider. The approach used by traditional outsource service providers is to effectively reinvent the wheel with every new customer engagement, rather than using the same pre-integrated processes and software every time and configuring it to the unique needs of each customer. “A lot of our customers can’t understand how we’re able to onboard them onto a new platform in thirty days, as they’re used to systems or software adoption dragging on for 9-12 months or longer,” says Klein.
“And that makes sense given what they are used to is a grounds-up build of an application stack either through a software VAR or through an outsourced provider.

“Our standardized set of pre-integrated processes and software allow us to devote even more time to configuring each customer solution to their unique needs and still have them up and running in a fraction of the time they could achieve otherwise.” which leads to the next tenet.

Tenet #2: FaaS provides a single, self-service software interface.

There’s no shortage of powerful software solutions for finance operations, but more often than not, outsourced accounting firms will implement multiple applications, which the client themselves will then need to understand at a working level. In Klein’s experience, this leads to a single person, either at the service provider, or within the Company, who knows how the navigate the different systems and get to the relevant information. “During a recent discussion with our sales team, one of our potential clients talked about how they relied on essentially a ‘Wizard in a Box’ to share financial info,” says Klein. “This wizard is a person who would be able to take any request, download the answer from any number of different systems in place and serve it up to whoever asked.”
“This made the “wizard” very impressive to most folks at the company, except for the CEO, who didn’t appreciate having one person in the entire company able to retrieve relevant financial information.” And even if that “wizard” happens to be the contact at the service provider, there’s the same risk of reliance on a single individual for critical financial data, which is essentially the oxygen for business decisions.
Klein explains that this complexity is a result of the powerful tech solutions available today. Many providers will mix and match applications, in an attempt to leverage best of breed software functionality. That also means if the client wants to see certain information, they have to know every system, and how each of them is used, which can lead to misunderstandings as these solutions aren’t integrated, so the client not only needs to know what information to look for, but also which system stores that information.
“In order to make information more accessible to our customers, we built a solution using a best-of-breed suite of 3rd party software applications, but then added a light unification layer atop this software stack, so our clients have a single login to access all of their financial data,” says Klein. “Our singe user interface is called Simpl® and it is laid out in such a way that even non-finance staff can easily access the information they need when they are granted permissions to different areas.” This is vital, given that a lot of software solutions merely export to Excel spreadsheets that need to be “interpreted” by someone on the finance team. With Consero’s solution, designated executives and business managers can login and quickly get what they need, becoming a self-service option for the client and enabling more accountability with business leaders.

Tenet 3: FaaS provides transparent and scalable service-based pricing for the client’s needs today and tomorrow

Typically, outsourced accounting firms will either charge by the hour, or by some total monthly fee based on some behind the scenes assumption of the level and number of staff assigned and required software components, . Consero used this model as well for some time, but it ultimately proved to be less than ideal for clients.
“Charging by the hour isn’t transparent, as it shouldn’t be the customer’s problem if it took the provider longer to do the same work one month vs. the prior month.” says Klein. “And if the pricing is based around a fixed monthly fee, what exactly is included in that monthly fee? At what point will the client grow into having to pay more and how much more? Those are questions that are difficult for a provider to answer when they just build price on a cost-plus basis for the current scope of work
This lack of transparency hinders the ability for a company to plan for its future growth. “How do they figure out what their financial operations will cost to administer when they grow from twenty employees to a hundred? No doubt there will be more transactions, more vendors, and the like, but what will that mean in fees? All too often that’s guesswork on the part of customer and the provider.” says Klein. “The reason for that guesswork is that inconsistent delivery across engagements leaves the outsourced provider lacking in confidence needed to have a price-per-service model.”
Instead, Consero charges by service, which allows clients to know exactly what they’re paying for and how much it will be as they scale up or down. “This shifts the burden on to us, to make sure we have the competence, staff and systems to deliver that service in an excellent and timely manner,” says Klein. It also drives Consero to automate as much as possible, with the increased rigor that comes with such efforts. “If a provider is charging by the hour, why would they automate anything, which would reduce their fees?” And in this era of labor inflation, pay-per-service helps insulate clients from the worst of those fluctuations, as a provider automates more and more in response.

Tenet 4: FaaS offers skilled finance and accounting professionals with the right expertise for the client’s needs and priorities

Much of financial operations are fairly straightforward, in processing transactions and producing financials, but there are elements that require strategic thinking and experience in the trenches. Consero has built up its team with an eye to these additional needs, whether it’s CFO support, or an M&A program.
“For example, the client is plotting a series of acquisitions, we’ll have a team well-versed in seamlessly onboarding new entities into a parent company’s finance platform ready to jump in without disrupting the core service team members already delivering core finance services to the parent company.” says Klein. Along with situational expertise like integrating acquisitions, FaaS providers also have team members with sector expertise which translates into, for example, understanding revenue recognition matters for software companies.
With FaaS, the most crucial element of this discipline is “service.” It’s what unifies the comprehensive offering, that single, easy to use interface, the transparency in pricing, and the expertise for the more complex issues facing the client. “That’s why FaaS isn’t just a new marketing term for an existing practice, but a new standard of service that we aim to live up to with every client. These four tenets are what customers should be demanding from anyone calling themselves a provider of FaaS,” says Klein.

5 Powerful Advantages of Finance as a Service (FaaS) for Investment Management Firms

Consero’s Finance as a Service(FaaS) is a comprehensive and fully-managed back office solution that blends leading financial technology and a skilled finance & accounting team designed specifically to help investment managers run their business efficiently and profitably.

This eBook explores the top five ways FaaS enables investment managers like you can overcome common challenges and accelerate your time to value.

Whether you’re growing your investment management business, launching a new fund, or launching your first fund, increasing your clients’ wealth is your passion. Your investors are the lifeblood of your business, and you know how to nurture those relationships. When you can focus on your clients and their financial success, your firm can also be successful.

But running a business is more complicated and time-consuming than you expected. From human resources to accounting tasks to compliance and security risks, it’s easy to get bogged down with managing the day-to-day instead of being able to focus on what you are best at—managing client investments.

The good news is you can streamline the entire back office of your investment management firm and scale on demand, effortlessly. Consero’s Finance as a Service (FaaS) is a comprehensive solution that blends leading financial technologies and expert advisory services designed specifically to help investment managers run their businesses efficiently and profitably.

Keep reading to learn how FaaS helps you:

1.Take the Stress Out of Financial Management

2.Leverage Industry Experts to Support Your Unique Operations

3.Ensure Best Practices for Human Resources

4.Minimize Risk While Boosting Control and Transparency

5.Scale Your Business on Demand

Guide to Outsourced Finance & Accounting for Investment Management Firms: The Finance as a Service solution

Alternative Asset Managers face a pressing dilemma. Their focus is rightly on managing their investments and relationships with investors, but they still need to fulfill their duties and responsibilities for their own management company. And if such duties are postponed or under-managed, the fallout, from regulators and investors alike, can jeopardize the success of the entire firm.

This article examines how Investment Managers can tackle the finance function for their own management company, with a focus on the burdens and benefits of the various options. Many Managers begin using some in-house solution, eventually migrating to rely on an outside firm or adding it to the lists of duties for a fund administrator. But a third option is growing in popularity: outsourcing the finance function, by using a “Finance as a Service” model.

For any investment managers about to launch a fund, or who are relatively nascent in their evolution, the clock is ticking. The right choice for serving the finance function of the management company can mean the difference between establishing best practices early, the kind that allows the finance function to stay nimble and responsive for the life of the firm or facing the consequences of bad habits. Habits that began when the Firm chose the easiest solution, rather than one that truly suited their needs.

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Creating Value Out of the Finance & Accounting Function: 5 Common Mistakes PE-Backed Companies Make…And How to Fix Them

Private Equity firms need the Finance & Accounting team to deliver clear insights quickly. But too often, they are re-creating the wheel—implementing software, hiring professionals and building reports. Time is wasted and opportunities are missed.

To be successful, the finance & accounting function of Private Equity portfolio companies should create value. A strategic CFO should provide the “Voice of Finance” that permeates throughout the business. Key functions like processing transactions, closing the books and producing internal/external reporting should all be efficient. And those efficiencies should drive the relative cost of the finance & accounting function down as the organization scales up.

In this eBook, we’ll explain the common mistakes to help you identify potential failure points. We’ll provide insights into how they can be resolved so you can begin getting more value out of the finance function. And we’ll show you how the finance function can provide the foundation to build for the future and guide the business strategically.

 Five Common Mistakes:

  • Misaligned skill sets in finance & accounting
  • Re-creating the finance & accounting wheel
  • Disconnected finance & accounting systems
  • Processes that won’t scale
  • Buried information

 The Fix:Driving efficiencies through automation and AI with Finance as a Service

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How to Build a Scalable Finance & Accounting Platform for Successful Rollups

For those Private Equity (PE) firms employing a rollup strategy, it’s critically important to develop a systematic, repeatable process to onboard acquisitions quickly and get a clear understanding of the true financial and operational status of the business.

Contents

  • Why PE firms are embracing the rollup strategy
  • The critical role of finance and accounting
  • Common challenges of the rollup strategy
  • What you need: The four building blocks of a rollup F&A platform
    1. Integrated and extensible best-of-breed software stack
    2. Experienced F&A personnel with a range of skillsets
    3. Robust statutory and management reporting
    4. Centralization, standardization and automation
  • Consero’s Rollup Platform for PE Firms

For a growing number of PE firms, the “rollup platform” provides the foundation for financial reporting and operational standards to improve visibility and accelerate acquisition returns.

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In this eBook, we’ll explain how PE firms like yours are using rollup platforms to apply systematic processes to financial and operational functions. Aligning the people, processes and technology of acquisitions in less than two months—instead of a year or more—PE firms can scale the business quickly to achieve growth targets.
Read on to find out how you can bring visibility to hidden costs, inefficient processes and unnoticed opportunity to realize the returns on investment faster.

Why PE Firms are embracing the rollup

Bain’s 2019 Private Equity Report found that nearly 30% of PE firms are employing a rollup strategy. The rollup, where multiple small companies are acquired and merged, allows PE firms to build economies of scale through a single brand supported by shared sales, marketing and operations. To grow the business effectively, the administrative infrastructure and reporting systems should be standardized across the acquired operations. The ultimate value of the business is created through a much larger entity that will produce higher profits and command a higher valuation multiple upon exit.

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The Changing Face of Finance: How CFOs Maximize the Value of Software and AI to Drive Better Business Decisions

Over the course of the last decade, there has been an explosion of choices in financial management software—from full function suites to industry-specific apps. The software has matured with data management, reporting and functionality to deliver huge productivity gains to finance departments. Yet organizations still flounder with lack of insight and cumbersome business processes.

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The organizations realizing the most value from software understand the need to align applications with the organization’s unique objectives and requirements. They know what questions to ask to build the insights that will drive decisions.

In this eBook, we’ll share the secrets of those CFOs who are maximizing the value of software and AI. They are adding value to their organizations by understanding requirements and leveraging software to simplify—streamlining processes and delivering clear, concise insight

The ROI of Outsourced Finance & Accounting

How can Finance as a Service give you higher velocity with lower costs and effort than building in-house?

Growing companies face a critical decision as they reach a certain size and scale of operations: Is it better to outsource accounting or keep it in-house? At first look, each option seems to have a number of benefits.

UNDERSTANDING THE COSTS AND ROI OF TRADITIONAL ACCOUNTING
Finance as a Service is a major departure from the traditional method of handling accounting. This new, more effective method for handling a core business need can lead to significant improvements, but can also be difficult to grasp at first
in comparison to traditional accounting. First, let’s consider the costs of traditional accounting. This will help organizations better understand the unique value proposition offered by outsourced accounting through a direct comparison to in-house.

TRADITIONAL ACCOUNTING COSTS
One of the most important considerations to make at a high level, beyond the specific and often high costs of traditional accounting, is its variable nature. Organizations that handle such efforts in-house have to repeatedly address some uncertainties
related to staffing, software and equipment over time that increase the amount of labor and funds spent on accounting. While these circumstances play out differently for all enterprises, they represent a notable, sometimes substantial cost that simply is not present in outsourced accounting.

Fill out the form to the right and get your complimentary white paper today.

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Beyond Outsourced Accounting:
How “Finance as a Service” Provides Decision-Driving Insight for CEOs

Strategic finance has become the secret accelerator of high-growth companies where bets are bigger, risks are higher and the outcomes from decisions have lasting impact. But for most growing companies, finance and accounting can’t deliver the clear insight into business performance that leaders need. The wrong people, inefficient processes and outdated systems obstruct progress and stall growth.

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To respond to rapid changes, you need a clear view into financial fundamentals, forward-looking reporting and an experienced perspective of business performance metrics. While outsourced accounting simply allows you to offload non-core business activity such as AP, AR and basic reporting, Finance as a Service delivers integrated best-in-class technology as a platform, business process engineers, data analysis expertise and high- level strategic CFO guidance.

Traditional financial management options for startups and high growth companies Full of tradeoffs and uncertainties, it’s challenging to find the right solution to manage the financial needs of your business.

  • DO IT MYSELF “I don’t know how or have the time.”
  • HIRE A CFO “Too expensive.”
  • HIRE A CONTROLLER “Not ready for that kind of investment.”
  • HIRE A FRACTIONAL CFO “What if they don’t understand my business.”
  • CHOOSE AN OUTSOURCER “I know someone who had a bad experience.”

Read on to see how you can rethink your finance and accounting solution. There is a better way.

Financial fundamentals that connect the dots

For growing companies, it makes sense to use software designed for small business—one for
accounting, another for travel and entertainment and another for invoicing. The data is not
connected and there are multiple entry points, but it works as a short-term solution.

A more complete picture

As the company evolves, you need to be able to see the interactions and dependencies of all parts of the business. Building spreadsheets with data from multiple systems wastes time and doesn’t provide deep insight. You need to be able to see your business as a whole—past, present and future.

“We need to sync with marketing to provide real-time analysis of how marketing efforts correlate to sales/dollars received.” Consero customer

Insight through connected data

With financial information collected from across the business, presented in a unified form, you can make sense of the current challenges and opportunities ahead. Connected data that supports financial reporting will help you:

  • Understand your cash position, including the pace of collections.
  • Monitor customer acquisition costs and track ongoing account profitability.
  • Evaluate inventory or service line performance in real time—before it’s too late to act proactively.
  • Demonstrate performance gains to potential investors.

With a firm foundation of financial reporting, you can make confident decisions as you navigate the challenges and opportunities of growth.

Processes to increase efficiency, reduce fraud

While paper-based processes and functional apps can support the company in early stages, growth demands higher productivity and controls to reduce the risks of errors and fraud. When employees have to enter data into two or three different systems, they are wasting time that could be spent on profit-building activities.

Grow without growing payroll

With integrated financial management systems, you can reduce repetitive tasks and duplicate data entry. Employees can handle higher transaction volumes in the same amount of time. Consolidated data means that employees don’t have to spend so much time in spreadsheets.

Reduce opportunities for fraud

Without formal financial policies and controls to safeguard and monitor revenue and expenditure transactions, companies are open to lost revenue, over payments or even internal fraud. Moving to a consolidated financial platform and eliminating paper-based processes will improve reporting, expedite collections and reduce the opportunities for fraud.

Controls and accuracy

With integrated financial management systems and processes, your employees can focus on productive work instead of administrative tasks. Connected systems will support key checkpoints, critical performance metrics and segregation of duties to reduce unintended errors and employees who might consider taking advantage of unchecked processes.

70% of staff members surveyed felt their company would benefit from reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks. CFO study

Clear line-of-sight to drive decisions

When business leaders have to depend on information housed in multiple disconnected financial management systems, there is no single view of meaningful information to make decisions. Too many decisions are made on gut feelings because there simply isn’t enough time to piece together all the needed data.

“We need to focus ourselves much more on getting our product right and growing our customer base.” Consero customer

Focus on the future

As your company grows, you must have financial information that gives you a birds-eye view of the performance of the organization—as well as the ability to focus in on the details. You need to understand exactly what is happening across your business so you can make the best decisions for the future.

Execute with confidence

With strong financial management guidance, you can monitor and guide the strategic direction of the company. Accurate financial models and visualizations give the leadership team and managers the information they need to:

  • Recognize strategic missteps early and take corrective action.
  • Provide visibility into recurring revenue and other cash inflows to monitor profitability.
  • Identify vendors missing deadlines or simple mistakes by staff members.
  • Track forecasts and budgets to keep the company on course. With focused financial information, your managers can execute on their mission with confidence.

Reduce distractions to focus forward

It’s difficult to focus on the future when you have to manage the everyday administrative tasks of financial management. Business leaders who are fighting fires—trying to stay ahead of vendors, receivables, taxes and compliance—can’t spend enough time on issues that will impact the long-term success of the organization.

Prioritize growth

The health of any business depends on looking ahead to identify opportunities and be alert for warning signals. When you reduce the everyday distractions, you can spend more time working on strategic partnerships, looking for ways to drive performance and improve visibility for decision makers.

Look to experts

By strategically outsourcing financial and accounting activities, while maintaining a core team in-house, you can take a strategic approach to financial management. The key is to find professionals who have the experience to deliver financial management support with accuracy, wisdom and discretion.

Offload transactional work

By relying on shared services to offload transactional work, your business will be more efficient while increasing visibility to information. The integrated financial management systems delivered through outsourced finance and accounting provide better insight through connected data as well as the reduced burden on your team.

90% of finance executives surveyed say they need to do more with the financial and operations data at hand to help top management make critical decisions. CFO

Insights to enable growth decisions

A fundamental disconnect between the company’s goals and its financial figures are at the heart of many business failures. Without visibility into comprehensive financial information, it’s impossible to accurately monitor performance and measure progress on strategy.

“Outsourced accounting typically doesn’t get ingrained in your business, whereas Finance as a Service adds value to the business as a whole.”

Control risk during change

When you have deeper financial insight— with visibility into data and analysis tools to build understanding—it’s possible to assess risk in different scenarios. With a firm understanding of the financial position of the business, you can work with stakeholders to create opportunities, meet challenges head on and overcome the inevitable obstacles to growth.

Visibility across operations

With connected data and mature financial management guidance, your organization can mitigate risks and build for the future with:

  • Cash forecasting built on clear understanding of recurring revenue, receivables and outflows.
  • Pricing strategies that reflect fullyburdened costs.
  • Reporting to provide each stakeholder the information that builds confidence.
  • Identification of financial trends and market opportunities to better control costs and build for the future.

By providing your organization with timely insights into the company’s performance, you can help guide the company to mitigate risk and build a long-term strategy.

Finance as a Service from Consero

At Consero, we combine traditional CFO, controller and bookkeeping services with proven processes and integrated software to give executives a dashboard view of company performance, plus the ability to invoice customers and pay bills all in one place.

Delivering far more value than outsourced accounting, which often just provides glorified bookkeeping with compliance based reporting, Finance as a Service gives clients—like your organization—enterprise-level financial visibility and control at a fraction of the cost and time required to setup and manage an internal finance team and infrastructure. You also get management reporting that tells you how your business is actually performing financially. We can have you up and running in 30 days with minimal impact to your company, delivering real value including:

  • Connected Data: No more disparate data; we provide a financial portal with best-of -breed financial, accounting, invoicing and expense software.
  • Process and Controls: We implement proven processes and controls to increase efficiency and speed to market.
  • Right People: We combine traditional CFO, controller and bookkeeping services with proven processes and integrated software that gives executives a dashboard view of how their company is performing, as well as the ability to invoice customers and pay bills all in one place.
  • Saving Time: We free up your top people from dealing with time-consuming financial activities and allow them to focus on strategic goals.
  • Financial Visibility: With comprehensive financial reporting, you can make decisions based on a clear picture of your financial standing.
  • Poised for Growth: We deliver a new paradigm; a finance department that is an enabler of growth — not a constraint.

Contact us for a complimentary assessment at 866-588-0495 or visit www.conseroglobal.com

 

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Outsourced F&A Lets CFOs Stay Focused On Growth

What keeps CFOs up at night? According to a recent survey from The CFO Alliance, most heads of financial operations at businesses all over the world aren’t exactly counting sheep while they toss and turn in bed. Instead, their thoughts turn to time, data and a paradoxical excess and shortage of both, all at once.

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Many executives, managers or anyone with corporate experience can probably relate. This is especially true for small to medium sized business (SMBs) where there are certainly fewer resources to get tasks accomplished — not as many systems, certainly not as many people.

“The biggest thing keeping CFOs up at night is – not surprisingly – ‘too much to do and not enough time to do it,'” according to the CFO Alliance survey.

Having strategic agility is another top concern – which tied very closely to not having the right systems, or the right skills on their finance team. For the strategic CFO, visibility into the right data is invaluable. However, there is more data being generated from more sources. With outdated technologies, inefficient processes and misaligned teams, CFOs are operating at a disadvantage to obtaining quality data. If CFOs aren’t leveraging systems that can deliver timely and accurate information, they can’t pivot effectively. For finance chiefs at many companies, the answers to their most pressing concerns seem just out of reach. If only they had the right tools, processes and people at their disposal to mine their most precious resource. Many feel they could transform the company if they could unlock the code to their black box of concerns.

What it all comes down to is strategy. A CFO’s primary duty is to develop and execute a long-term financial plan for the business. But this plan is really made up of small, short-term tasks that must be delegated and accomplished appropriately. Bridging that gap between long-term strategic thinking and tactical, short-term execution is the crux of the CFO’s daily worries.

Perhaps it always has been this way, but the best business leaders rarely see the status quo as an obstacle. Instead, they are leveraging the best tools available to check off the daily line items while keeping the future constantly in view.

“When you are a brandnew company, you may need a general-ledger accountant and AR and AP expertise, but you may not need them full time. And when cash is dear, and you’ve got a full-time head doing a 50% job, it’s painful. Consero can put a 50% person until you grow.”

BRIDGING THE GAP

In an article for CFO.com, David McCann points out that the size of a company often dictates how their finance departments are organized. What’s peculiar, McCann finds, is the similarities shared by very small and very large companies. Firms logging either less than $5 million or more than $1 billion in annual revenue tend to outsource almost all of their finance and accounting work, at least the most routine, transactional tasks. But between that gap where so many businesses lie, F&A outsourcing has commonly been a rarity.

It is increasingly observed that a company in between the very large and very small are choosing to strategically outsource transactional F&A functions while keeping a core team in-house.

Synergis Education, whose CFO Scott Wenhold spoke with McCann, did just that using Consero Global. Synergis claims around $75 million in annual revenue, hardly a lightweight by any means, but leverages Consero’s shared services model to maintain a lean, in-house F&A staff. This allows CFO Wenhold to work with just three analysts to coordinate strategically, without disregarding the “boring” work that would otherwise consume much of their time.

AGREEING ON CHANGE

This model may be cutting-edge, and executives may indeed be skeptical of committing to such a seismic shift. But recent surveys and studies of F&A professionals – along with the results attained by those who outsource these tasks strategically – prove it is the most logical solution.

Again, picking the brains of the modern CFO is incredibly illuminating on this subject. A survey from Ernst and Young of nearly 800 finance leaders around the world revealed that more than half of CFOs feel stuck in a creative rut. Too much of their time and energy is being spent on transactional tasks, routine bookkeeping and compiling reports, according to the survey. Of course they want to spend more time in a big-picture mindset, and often have highly capable staff and systems at their disposal. Somehow, though, the puzzle pieces don’t fit.

It’s easy to assume that many executives don’t want to change, or at least believe this is the way it should be. After all, the people working for the executives are expected to handle most of the transactional, nose-to-thegrindstone duties, and it would only be fair if the CFO had to shuffle some papers around once in awhile. But another study from CFO.com argues that this organizational hierarchy is outdated and inaccurate. Most non-executive staff, responding to a survey, said they wanted their CFO to be a strategic, visionary leader – a “catalyst” for innovation and change. In reality, staff members said their CFOs instead took on the less-appealing role of “steward” or “administrator.”

We are quick to speculate that executives and associates hold competing views of corporate organization, but this survey posits that this presumption is often false. Seventy percent of staff members surveyed felt their company would benefit from reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, and 81 percent felt automation and technology was the best way to accomplish this goal.

COLLABORATING AND CREATING

At every level of the traditional corporate structure, business goals and the methods to achieve them are surprisingly similar. But until recently, the best way to narrow this unified vision has been elusive for most companies. A shared services model for F&A like the one enabled by Consero is proving to be the best way to enable strategic planning despite limited time and resources.

The difference between good reporting and actionable reporting is seen when CFOs have access to not just a trove of data, but well-organized and visual ways to capture and use that data. The managed services approach to F&A is more than a reporting tool – CFOs can gain access to the information they need to spark the connection between data and insight.

With Consero, that can take many forms:

  • Understanding where problems exist.
  • Facilitate the right business discussions in problem areas.
  • Continuously measure and compare ongoing performance.
  • Hold managers accountable for results.
  • Understand and compare against typical impacts for similar companies.

The business world is already familiar with cloud services and their ability to connect and organize disparate teams. An outsourced financial partner takes this valueadding approach a step further by centralizing the most common F&A tasks, from transactional work to data visualization and reporting. Working with an outsourced partner gives you get access to best-in-class SaaS technology that is implemented in weeks, not months or years. The heavy lifting is not the burden of your finance team which allows them to stay focused on strategy and driving revenue. In this way, outsourced finance partner connects businesses to the people, processes and technology they need, without requiring CFOs to delegate or micromanage.

With the most time-consuming tasks taken care of, CFOs have more time to spend doing what they signed up for – working with their CEO and F&A teams to understand the data before them and make informed decisions on where to steer the business. That’s a level of insight that enables them to make the best decisions, whether it’s for something a few days or a few years down the road.

Forward-looking CFOs cannot afford to get bogged down in transaction processing. Instead, they should have confidence that the financials and processing are executed correctly. This frees their time to focus on strategic growth of the business.

For more information contact Consero at +1 (866) 588-0495 or find us at www.conseroglobal.com

 

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CFO Leadership in Good Times and Bad

LEADERSHIP IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD:

Are principles or styles common to both or are they unique?

The modern CFO is hardly ever relegated to the role of “bean counter,” nor does he or she play second fiddle to the CEO or other top executives. Increasingly, CFOs are expected to act as leaders on a host of issues that might imperil a company. This trend is a result of the CFO’s expanding influence on the corporate structure overall.

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CFOs wield greater power in their organizations than ever, but the question each must ask themselves is: Do they have the skills to lead the company not only when the high fives are flying but also when times are tough? In both circumstances, a leader’s true colors are revealed.

Ultimately, the answer to that central inquiry can depend on the people and resources available – those that will enable CFOs to make better decisions when faced with either a crisis or a chance for creative change.

If the CFO is too tied up in the daily grind of finance and accounting management to focus on anything else, their time gets consumed and they don’t add value. CFOs must leverage the best resources that enable strategic decision making and use his or her innate sense of leadership to guide the organization to success.

According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

If you’re in a leadership role, you’ll quickly see that circumstances often go back and forth between good times and bad. In these situations, adaptability is key.

CFO CRISIS LEADERSHIP

Most financial professionalsprobably welcome this new trendof the CFO as a true leader andagent of change within his orher organization. But if someoneis talented enough to move upthe ranks from a staff or directorlevel, finally reaching thatendpoint as CFO of the company,they might see their excitementturn to anxiety.

The nature of finance andaccounting in 2018 givesCFOs a say in more parts ofthe organization than ever. ITstrategy, risk and compliance,public or investor relations, humanresources—it’s not easy to think ofa department other than financewhere a CFO shouldn’t havesome influence. Consequently, acrisis involving just one of theseancillary business segments caneasily spill over and become theCFO’s concern. That includesevents that should sound familiarto regular news readers:

  1. Data breaches and cyberattacks often put sensitivefinancial information at risk.
  2. Misconduct claims leveledat staff, either internally orexternally, present both apublic image threat and afinancial risk.
  3. The temporary or permanentloss of a key person in thebusiness often requires theCFO to step into unfamiliarroles at a moment’s notice.

Betteridge Jewelers Case Study

Sometimes the crisis is inherited. Take the case of Nick Fisher, CFO of Betteridge Jewelers. He walked into chaos and quickly had to establish order. Upon arriving at his new job as CFO, Nick discovered the former CFO was completing a cash-flow forecast from memory and making multimillion-dollar decisions in his head. Nick was immediately faced with many key tasks, from updating accounting software that would not scale as they grew, to organizing accounting records and beginning to measure critical KPIs.

Above all of these tactical responsibilities for Nick, there was one key objective: Growing Betteridge from an annual revenue of approximately $100 million to around $500 million in 10 years. He led the company through its crisis by leveraging Consero’s Finance as a Service model to streamline and improve their key finance and accounting procedures in an accelerated timeline. These examples are slightly more specific than the systemic, everpresent risk of disaster faced by anyone leading a business. It also says nothing of crises that are purely financial—like a cash flow shortage or new competition in the market—and have always been primary concerns for the CFO.

Each of these scenarios requires a CFO who will take ownership and assume command over people who may be nervous, panicked or fearful. A Deloitte survey of CFOs found that fewer than 10% of finance chiefs felt their company was prepared for crises like cyberattacks or natural disasters which were rated as serious threats. But what if the CFO is just as unprepared for his or her new leadership responsibilities as the company was for the crisis at hand? That’s a situation no executive should be ready to accept.

CFOs IN TIMES OF RAPID GROWTH AND CHANGE

Oddly enough, some of these same risks and worries tend to present themselves in the best of times, too. Even when profits are climbing, investment is growing and a young company is finding its footing, the need for strong leadership is still clear. It could even be argued that the leadership behind an organization is more critical during times of growth than in periods of stagnation. That’s because a lack of vision at such pivotal times often turns into a crisis all its own.

Growth and change that concerns CFOs will take many forms as well:

  1. Mergers and acquisitions present an obvious need for financial leadership on both sides of the deal.
  2. Periods of high growth in revenue or investment necessitate change—this growth can’t be sustained under the same financial systems and processes for very long.
  3. Expanding geographically invites new opportunities to profit, but also more risks on multiple fronts.

No matter if it’s a crisis or an opportunity—a positive development or a negative one — the need for leadership is constant. But as CFOs are still coming to grips with their new roles within increasingly interdependent organizations, basic leadership principles may be among the last things on their mind.

For example, according to experts on the subject of leadership in crises and times of change, the ideal of a shared perspective between executives and staff in a company tends to be one of the first things out the door in either instance. Retired Brigadier General Tom Kolditz, who delivered the keynote address at the 2017 MIT Sloan CFO Summit, explained that this was a key aspect of leadership that too many executives ignore.

The lower you go in the organization, the more people are focused, in crisis, on personal outcomes,” Kolditz said, according to a CFO.com article on his presentation. “You’re distracted by the fact that it’s your job to fix the problem, but you have to understand their perspective, or you’ll say the wrong things to them.”

And as CFO.com reporter David McCann noted, it’s not that these staff members don’t care about the company in a crisis or period of change. Rather, “when people feel really threatened, they will set aside all kinds of compliance requirements and managerial policy,” according to Kolditz. “The basis for a lot of ethical lapses is just that kind of pressure. And the only way you fix it is by talking to them.”

Robert Alvarez, a client of Consero Global, is also the CFO of BigCommerce and winner of the Austin Business Journal’s 2013 CFO of the Year. “Your communication style should not change as the company grows,” Alvarez explained during a CFO Leadership Conference panel discussion. “It is important to share information. If employees are going to steer the ship, they must know what is going on.”

He added that an effective leader will put the right people, processes and systems in place so the CFO is in a position to inspire. He selected Consero’s Finance as a Service to clear away obstacles that would otherwise impede progress and divert his time away from focusing on strategic objectives.

Let’s take a closer look at leadership styles and principles. We will examine whether they are common to leading, both in good times and bad, or if they are unique.

LEADERSHIP STYLE

Daniel Goleman’s study in the Harvard Business Review uncovered specific leadership behaviors. The goal was to determine their effects on corporate climate and each leadership style’s impact on bottom-line profitability.

The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability. Consider how much time and money a company spends on new processes, efficiencies, and cost-cutting methods in an effort to add even one percent to bottom-line profitability. This is the very reason why finance executives choose outsourcing as an option to free their time so they can focus on the core of the business.

According to Goleman, great leaders choose their leadership styles like a golfer chooses a club: with a clear understanding of the end goal and the best tool for the job. Goleman outlined six leadership styles and their impact on the corporate climate.He summed up each style with a single phrase.

1. The Pacesetting Leader: “Do as I do, now.”

• Expects and displays excellence and self-direction.
• This style is best applied when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. When used extensively, however, a pacesetting leader can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.

2. The Authoritative Leader: “Come with me.”

• Mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual.
• Authoritative leadership is best used when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. This leader encourages entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission.

3. The Coercive Leader: “Do what I tell you.”

• Demands immediate compliance.
• Effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency like a tornado or a fire. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed.

4. The Affiliative Leader: “People come first.”

• Works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization.
• Affiliative leadership is best used in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a crisis, or when trust needs to be rebuilt.

5. The Coaching Leader: “Try this.”

• Develops people for the future.
• This style is best applied when the leader wants to help teammates build personal strengths that make them more successful overall.

6. The Democratic Leader: “What do you think?”

• Builds consensus through participation.
• Effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates.

LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES

You can adapt your leadership style based on various situations throughout your career. On your career path, you will no doubt experience both good times and bad. Just remember, specific golf clubs are designed for different situations: You are allowed 14 clubs in your bag. However, for each individual round you may choose only the best five or six depending on the environment. It takes practice and confidence to choose the right club.

What principles are guiding your leadership? For another perspective on demonstrating leadership in unfamiliar territory, consider the five characteristics of strong leaders laid out in in “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner:

  • Model the way: Keep your emotions and temper in check during a crisis. Control your fear because your employees are looking at you for clues as to how they should react.
  • Inspire a shared vision: Give employees a goal worth dedicating their efforts to. Always remember, the mission comes first. Get teams to rally behind that central goal.
  • Challenge the process: Look for ways to improve on the usual way of doing things. Think ahead about how you’ll react to tough situations.
  • Enable others to act: It falls on you to encourage your team and inspire them to keep going. Establish partnerships to make goals attainable. The best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.
  • Encourage the heart: Be tough, but human. Don’t ignore the thoughts and feelings of others on your team.

KIMBIA Case Study

A CFO.com article outlining top goals for CFOs indicates 90% of finance executives surveyed say they need to do more with the financial and operations data at hand to help top management make critical decisions.

“CFOs want to make a bigger impact on operations across the board,” said Abe Cohen, vice president of marketing at Kaufman Hall. “The data is supporting the notion that CFOs are transforming into business advisers.”

Having the right finance and accounting infrastructure in place will give you a solid foundation so you can be that trusted advisor and evolve as a transformative leader.

Phil Murray, former VP of Finance with KIMBIA, acknowledged he was too stuck in the weeds of finance & accounting to provide valuable leadership to the executive team. He let his leadership principle guide him and he challenged the process. He looked for ways to improve on the usual way of doing things. By outsourcing his accounting and finance to Consero, he brought better systems, processes and software that KIMBIA didn’t have the budget or expertise to implement on their own. The result was progress and a streamlined accounting function.

Where leadership styles may be interchangeable, leadership principles can be applied to any situation, good or bad. They are the foundation for effective leadership. Each leader chooses their unique formula of success, but there are principles to authentic leadership that determine your success or failure. Leading means communicating, influencing and engaging. These principles create an environment where you can make an impact and inspire people to move forward with a shared vision.

SUMMARY

A common thread through all of this is the need to make the switch from being tactical to being strategic by offloading the transactional work so there is time to be an effective leader. There is also a need for better information, better systems and processes, and more open lines of communication. Consero puts that power in the hands of CFOs to free up more time to devote to leading their organizations through turbulence, no matter what shape that might take.

A leader’s fundamental job is to get results. To succeed in this goal, you must assess the golf course first. As you approach each tee box, choosing the appropriate leadership style will drive the results you are wanting to achieve. Throughout the course of play, keep your leadership principles in-tact and use them in sync with every swing.

Take these basic leadership styles and principles with you, wherever the journey takes you as well as beyond 6 the specific job or setting. They will serve you well. Repeat, share and refresh. Today, reflect on your personal leadership and ask yourself how well you are living up your role? What more can you do? Challenge yourself to stay true to them, no matter how turbulent or pleasant the situations that you find yourself in.

 

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