List of Top Priorities for CFOs in 2015

Press Release

According to New Study from Protiviti and Financial Executives Research Foundation

MENLO PARK, Calif. –November 5, 2014 – CFOs and financial executives will continue to focus on addressing their cash flow and working capital capabilities in 2015, according to the annual Finance Priorities Survey (www.protiviti.com/financesurvey) released today by global consulting firm Protiviti (protiviti.com) and Financial Executives Research Foundation. Given the increased imperative to mitigate the effects of economic volatility, finance executives are placing more emphasis on financial close management and visibility around their cash horizons through strategic planning, forecasting, risk management and business intelligence, along with better transparency into performance overall.

With the sheer number of finance priorities ranked as “significant” at an all-time high in the four-year history of the survey, the results reveal a focus by CFOs on getting back to finance basics in 2015. Finance executives have also shifted their priorities towards attracting and retaining talent with strong ‘people’ skills, as well as the technical knowledge and analytical expertise to manage an evolving set of changes in the areas of regulation, domestic tax law, accounting standards and financial data analysis.

The top priorities in the survey's Process Capabilities for Financial Transactions category demonstrate a continued desire to holistically manage and enhance fundamental financial operations, while also maintaining a focus on revenue-generating activities. This focus has increased year-over-year as more organizations step up their vigilance in guarding against lapses that, during periods of heavy business activity, can slip into transactional processes – such as account reconciliations, payroll processes, accounts receivable and invoicing/billing. Specifically, respondents have prioritized the following functions:

  • Period-end close
  • Cash forecasting
  • Account reconciliations
  • Working capital management
  • Accounts receivable

“ERP, general ledger and consolidation systems have dramatically reduced human errors and processing delays, but the processes of reconciling and closing a company’s books at local and group levels continue to burden the finance function,” explained Bill Sinnett, senior director of research, Financial Executives Research Foundation.

Within the survey’s Process Capabilities for Financial Analysis category, several areas of focus continue to reflect the finance function's commitment to sharing clear insights on performance, cash positions and profitability in real-time. According to respondents, top priorities to address in the coming year include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Budgeting
  • Periodic forecasting
  • Profitability analysis (product, customer, channel, etc.)
  • Risk management (assessing risks tied to strategy, forecasting, etc.)

“Additionally, CFOs and finance executives continue to worry about which core finance business processes will be required in-house versus those that can be performed better and more cost effectively by others, as well as how finance organizations should be optimized and their talent aligned to support new service strategies,” said Peter Firestone, also a managing director with Protiviti’s Business Performance Improvement practice. “Our survey results reinforce the continued challenge for CFOs: how to make finance a strategic partner to the business to enable profitable growth, whether it’s through strategic acquisitions or market expansion.”

When ranking priorities in the Emerging Issues category, financial executives selected issues that pose new risks, challenges and opportunities for finance functions. These included:

  • Sustainability
  • Changes to U.S. healthcare regulations
  • Revenue recognition (impending new accounting standard)
  • Globalization
  • Workforce mobility

About the Survey

Protiviti and Financial Executives Research Foundation conducted the 2015 Finance Priorities Survey during the third quarter of 2014. The report includes insights from 372 finance executives across the globe including CFOs, vice presidents and directors of finance, and controllers at companies with annual revenues ranging from less than $100 million to more than $20 billion. More than 100 questions were issued to address the primary concerns and priorities in five categories: Process Capabilities for Financial Transactions; Process Capabilities for Financial Analysis; Emerging Issues; Technical Capabilities; and Organizational Capabilities.

The survey report and an infographic highlighting key results, along with a short video, are available for complimentary download at www.protiviti.com/financesurvey.

Benchmarking Tool

Companies can use Protiviti's complimentary online benchmarking tool to compare their organizations' priorities to those of other finance executives who have taken the survey and see the comparative data in a downloadable report. Learn more at www.protiviti.com/financesurvey.

Webinar on November 11

Key insights from the survey, including emerging risks and how to mitigate their impact, will be discussed by Protiviti's Senter and Firestone, joined by FEI’s Sinnett, in a complimentary one-hour webinar on November 11, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. PST. Please register at www.protiviti.com/webinars.

About Financial Executives Research Foundation, Inc.

Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) is the non-profit 501(c)(3) research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI). FERF researchers identify key financial issues and develop impartial, timely research reports for FEI members and nonmembers alike, in a variety of publication formats. FERF relies primarily on voluntary tax-deductible contributions from corporations and individuals, and publications can be ordered by logging onto www.ferf.org.

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Protiviti is not licensed or registered as a public accounting firm and does not issue opinions on financial statements or offer attestation services.

About Protiviti Inc.

Protiviti (www.protiviti.com) is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Through its network of more than 80 offices in over 20 countries, Protiviti and its independently owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, analytics, governance, risk and internal audit.

Named to the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000® and 35 percent of Fortune Global 500® companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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Kathy Keller
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