Finance Priorities in the COVID Era

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

What’s the 2020 Finance 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 Hong Kong?

Download the Finance Trends Survey: Hong Kong Executive Summary, or read below.

It has been a year like no other. COVID-19 has significantly disrupted business across Hong Kong, and as the results of our latest Global Finance Trends survey show, 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. On top of these challenges, many finance team members across Hong Kong have been transitioning on and off remote working structures as the pandemic situation changes in the city.

When looking at the survey responses, there were striking differences in the top priorities facing finance leaders across the globe. In Hong Kong, competitive intelligence, enhanced data analytics, and process improvement topped their 2021 priorities list, compared to other markets where the top priorities remained consistent with data security and privacy, financial planning and analysis, and enhanced data analytics leading the list.

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.

During this time, leadership within the finance function has been tested like never before. It is unsurprising that this survey places leadership as the number one staff skill that will have to be prioritised over the next 12 months. It ranks number one both in Hong Kong 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.

Hong Kong respondents said changing customer demands and expectations were the most important finance priorities, in line with respondents across APAC – whereas global respondents were more inclined to prioritise cloud-based applications that support finance.

With an increased number of staff working from home, 53% of Hong Kong 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 34% said it had significantly increased. Only 4% of Hong Kong respondents said their level of concern was the same (slightly 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 have 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 have been significant, which is exacerbated by additional challenges in reporting on the impacts of COVID-19 and changes in reporting standards.

With cost-cutting measures mainly impacting the workforce and operations, finance leaders in Hong Kong will continue to rely on external contractors and freelancers to help balance out their teams. Specifically, staff augmentation will be more heavily utilised at an average of 43.5% in the areas of finance PMO and strategic finance (M&A), significantly higher than global respondents at 28%.


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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


Protiviti in the news

Visit our latest press release on the Finance Trends Survey


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Adam Johnston, Protiviti Hong Kong
Adam Johnston
Country Leader and Managing Director
David Cheung, Protiviti
David Cheung
Country Leader and Managing Director