Finance Priorities in the COVID Era

Finance Priorities in the COVID Era
Finance Priorities in the COVID Era

What’s the 2020 Finance Trends survey all about? 

Major crises expose the true nature of things. In the face of extreme pressure, organisations discover how digital, agile and resilient they really are. CFOs and finance leaders are leveraging hard-earned lessons from the worldwide pandemic to strengthen organisational agility and resilience, according to the results of Protiviti’s 2020 Global Finance Trends Survey.

Key global findings

  1. Data security, analytics and cloud continue to sit atop CFO priority lists.

    Leading CFOs have solidified their long-term strategic role as a stakeholder in organisational data security and privacy, while marshaling advanced technologies, data analytics and other finance planning and process improvements to keep pace with changing demands of internal customers.

  2. COVID upended finance operations.

    The pandemic’s many effects hindered the preparation of timely financial statements, compelled the reforceasting of finance plans, impeded the ability of many third parties to meet their service level agreements, sparked supply chain upheavals, and spurred CFOs to fundamentally rethink their staffing approaches. 

  3. The new finance labour model gets stress-tested in real-time.

    Finance leaders who manage a diverse talent pool of full-time employees, contract and temporary workers, expert external consultants, and managed services and outsourcing providers have been able to respond to external disruptions with greater speed and agility — and with fewer compromises to core finance processes. In fact, for financial planning and analysis, 18% of finance organisations rely on managed service providers and 29% leverage staff augmentation to support these activities. 

  4. Finance groups have more internal customers who have greater expectations for data and insights. 

    The finance group’s sustained commitment to digital transformation is in large part driven by the rest of the organisation’s growing hunger for the forward-looking data-driven insights that finance produces.


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What’s top of mind for finance executives in Australia?

Download the Finance Trends Survey: Australia Executive Summary, or read on below.

It has been a year like no other. COVID-19 has significantly disrupted businesses across the Australian landscape, and the finance function has not escaped unscathed.

Financial reporting has been seriously disrupted, data security jeopardised, office shutdowns have hindered third-party providers, supply chain snafus have proliferated, and business process outsourcing has often been thrown into disarray. And amid all these challenges, most finance team members have had to transition to remote working.

Early in the pandemic, CFOs and finance leaders were called upon to make fundamental strategic decisions with their C-suite colleagues to enable organisations to continue to operate. There was no time to move existing strategic priorities to the backburner. This has had major consequences for the expectations of internal customers – let alone plans to strengthen data security, analytics, cloud applications, or other business improvements. All these issues have had to be addressed while managing the inevitable crisis-related responses elevated by the economic impacts of the pandemic.

The leadership of banks and financial services companies has been tested like never before. It is unsurprising that this survey places leadership as the number one staff skill that financial organisations will have to focus on over the next 12 months. It ranks number one both in Australia and globally.

Leadership is particularly relevant given that the majority of staff are working remotely. This is a time of rapid organisational change and most companies have experienced significant disruption, which has challenged existing business models and, in many cases, financial viability.

Australian respondents said changing customer demands and expectations were the most important finance priorities – whereas global respondents were more inclined to prioritise cloud-based applications that support finance.

With an increased number of staff working from home, 35% of Australian respondents said their level of concern had increased when it came to utilising existing security measures to protect finance-related data security and privacy issues. A further 23% said it had significantly increased. Only 3% of Australian respondents said their level of concern was the same (interestingly, significantly lower than the 8% who said this globally).

According to Willis Towers Watson’s latest cyber claims data, 63% of cyber incidents are caused directly by employees through accidental disclosure, social engineering scams, inadvertent ransomware infection, and even malicious intentional behaviour. The lack of direct physical oversight over remote employees only compounds these problems.

There has no doubt been significant challenges for finance functions in the work from home environment. In particular they have stated that challenges in preparing reliable financial reports and statements under required timelines has been significantly impacted, which is exacerbated by additional challenges in reporting on the impacts of COVID-19 and changes in reporting standards.

Looking ahead, more than half of all Australian CFOs and finance leaders are planning on hiring new permanent employees in next six months: 32% in the next 3-6 months, and 22% in the next three months. With temporary employees and contractors, 42% of CFOs and finance leaders are planning to hire in the next 1-3 months.

This may be heavily skewed in Victoria, where lockdowns remain a substantial impediment to restarting the economy. In the short term, finance organisations may look more towards short-term fixed contracts. However, any further lockdowns are likely to impact the confidence of finance leaders when it comes to filling these kinds of roles.


Download Executive Summary



Finance Trends Resources

The results of Protiviti’s latest global survey of CFOs and finance leaders illuminate how COVID-19 is affecting finance operations, even while broader finance priorities and trends are largely consistent with prior years – from security and privacy of data, to meeting the growing demands of internal customers, to leveraging advanced data analytics. Download report
Protiviti’s latest Global Finance Trends Survey contains detailed insights on the challenges, activities and funding decisions CFOs and finance leaders are prioritising for the coming year. Board members will find the following five takeaways to be particularly noteworthy as part of their collaboration and communications with their CFOs. Download report
Major crises expose the true nature of things. In the face of extreme pressure, organisations discover just how digital, agile and resilient they really are. CFOs and finance leaders are leveraging hard-earned lessons from the worldwide pandemic to strengthen organisational agility and resilience, according to the results of Protiviti’s latest Global Finance Trends Survey. Download report


Interactive Global Results

Visit our interactive Finance Trends website to find out more about:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the finance function
  • Industry results
  • Geographic results
  • Takeaways for CFOs
  • Takeaways for board members
  • Other available resources

Find Out More


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Craig Bretton
Craig Bretton
Managing Director
Adam Christou
Adam Christou
Managing Director