The global economy is poised to stage its most robust post-recession recovery in 80 years, according to the World Bank. Individuals, businesses, and society as a whole are starting to look forward to shaping the future. While this restored optimism may be encouraging, many finance leaders remain focused on ensuring that their businesses are more resilient and agile in the face of future disruption.
Within this context, corporate treasury is playing an increasingly critical role – providing vital consultancy, risk analysis, and intelligence that supports the optimal management of cash flow and the development of long-term financial strategy. Understanding and analysing a corporate world that is constantly evolving alongside new business requirements, technology solutions, and economic demands means the role of treasury is also evolving. A strategic approach to treasury and finance functions will protect and optimise cash and other financial assets and increase the impact of liquidity to generate new value in today’s volatile markets.
People with the skills to interpret data and model and forecast scenarios are now in high demand, moving recruitment and talent retention to the top of the priority list. Too much rote, repetitive, transactional work makes an organisation less desirable for top talent to remain at or join. Amid fierce competition, business leaders are quickly realising that building their future talent pipeline is as crucial as it is challenging.
In fact, a recent global survey commissioned by BlackLine shows that a significant number of C-suite and finance executives plan to invest heavily in talent across the business over the next year , suggesting that the right people, with the right skills, will be an important foundation for future success.
However, just 14% of CFOs surveyed said they are confident they currently have the expertise they need within the finance function. Respondents expressed concerns about a lack of leadership abilities, strategic thinking, and technology skills, with a significant number believing the finance function is failing to keep up with other areas of the business regarding digital transformation.
Manual processes have traditionally been a treasury mainstay, but automation has reduced time-intensive processes, unearthing the capacity to deliver real-time insights and empowering treasurers’ decision-making. This paves the way for treasury professionals to develop strong influencing skills and spend more time on the strategy, planning, and analysis to drive meaningful change within the organisation.
Despite this, our survey suggests that companies are currently facing a skills gap that could be harming efforts to implement digital change. While there is an appetite to automate more processes, a dearth of personnel with experience of automation software, and the corresponding lack of willingness to use automation software, is holding some businesses back. For example, more than a quarter (30%) want to automate AR processes, but the same respondents said the absence of software experience or skills at their organisation makes this difficult.
Finding people with the right technology skills and financial experience seems to be at the heart of the issue, especially when it comes to new candidates entering the job market. For example, more than a quarter (29%) of respondents agreed that academic courses need to focus more on technology skills and a similar number agreed that current academic qualifications do not prepare people for today’s roles.
Additionally, when asked about the expertise needed for their company to adapt and grow over the next five years, 38% of those surveyed admitted they are worried their organisation does not have the right skills to digitally transform as quickly as competitors. In particular, respondents highlighted that a knowledge of financial systems integration and experience of transforming and automating processes are in high demand when acquiring talent.
In a competitive business environment, the ability to attract and retain top performers with these abilities will be integral to success. To do this, organisations must eliminate the aforementioned transactional, mundane work often associated with the treasury function. More than a quarter (27%) of respondents agreed that this kind of repetitive work leaves employees bored, with limited opportunities to learn new skills, and unable to focus on career development. A lack of these opportunities may encourage new and existing talent to look elsewhere, while time-intensive manual processes will cause businesses to miss opportunities to nurture talent from within. Existing, legacy technology is also creating challenges for recruitment, with more than a quarter (26%) of those surveyed agreeing that this makes it difficult to compete with more technologically advanced businesses for the best candidates.
With the pandemic fuelling the so-called ‘Great Resignation,’ companies now have to work harder to make sure they are attractive to the right applicants. To draw people with the desired technology (or other) skills, organisations must first be technologically capable themselves. Technology can drastically reduce the workload across finance, but the benefits associated with that technology can only be applied, optimised, and turned into better outcomes by the workforce.
Considering the undeniable business case for automation, removal of manual processes and freeing up time for development should be a key step in building the talent pipeline. Given the evolving role of treasury as a key finance function vital to the financial health and success of the business, this is now more important than ever.