UK businesses more confident in successful digitisation of finance function than European counterparts

30 July 2015
  • The majority (89%) of UK finance leaders say digitised finance functions are in good shape to meet future business challenges compared to 83% of counterparts in Europe
  • 87% of CFOs expressed challenges in rolling out their digitisation plans, with technology limitations (40%) cited as the greatest challenge in the UK
  • Half (50%) of finance leaders will invest in data analytics as part of their digitisation plans

London, 30 July 2015 – The digitisation of organisations’ finance functions is well underway and UK businesses are more confident they are in a strong position to address future businesses challenges than their counterparts in Europe, according to new research from leading specialist recruitment consultancy, Robert Half UK.

The majority (89%) of UK finance leaders are confident their digitisation plans put them in a strong position to address businesses challenges with their confidence level only dropping three points to 86% when asked about their prospects in five years’ time. Their counterparts in Europe don’t share the same long-term confidence with 83% in a strong position to address future businesses challenges today, dropping nine points to 72% in five years’ time.

This suggests that UK businesses are in good shape to leverage their digitised finance functions to remain compliant and competitive despite 87% citing challenges in the continual roll out of their digitisation plans. Forty per cent of finance leaders pointed to technology limitations as the biggest barrier to successfully digitising the finance function.

The second biggest barrier to further digitisation of the finance function, cited by almost a third (32%) of finance leaders, is caused by organisational and/or operating models.  Executive leadership direction is another challenge for finance leaders – nearly a third (29%) believe that this is getting in the way of progress.  Lack of the right skills (26%), standardisation of processes (23%), staff execution (21%) and monetary costs (19%) are additional challenges faced by organisations building a high performance digitised finance function.

As businesses look to identify growth opportunities they are relying more on access to big data with half (50%) of UK businesses looking to invest in data analytics as an extension of their digitisation plans for the finance function. Fraud detection (43%) and compliance & regulation (35%) followed as areas identified to receive investment.  A lower proportion of finance leaders (21%) said that they would invest in financial reporting as part of the digitisation agenda while only 7% of finance leaders said that they would not make any investments in new areas or initiatives at all.

Medium sized businesses (55%) and large businesses (57%) are more likely to invest in data analytics than small companies (37%).  Small businesses see fraud detection and risk management as more of a priority (48%) than medium businesses (42%) and large companies (37%).  

UK CFOs were asked, “Thinking about the digitisation of the finance department, what areas or initiatives do you plan to invest in?” Their responses:

 

  Total Small
businesses
Medium
businesses
Large
businesses
Data analytics 50% 37% 55% 57%
Fraud detection/risk management 43% 48% 42% 37%
Compliance and regulation 35% 28% 41% 36%
Accounting processes 27% 27% 10% 36%
Vendor and/or client interfaces 25% 25% 24% 24%
Financial reporting 21% 13% 24% 24%
None/don’t know 7% 9% 5% 7%

Source: Robert Half, 2015

Phil Sheridan, UK Managing Director of Robert Half, commented: “As UK businesses continue to invest in the digitisation of their finance function it cements the importance placed on the department for the organisations’ success. Businesses are providing their accounting and finance departments the tools to forecast and test business scenarios often using real-time information.

“Accounting and finance professionals play a key role in identifying growth opportunities and cost efficiencies leading to competitive advantages for business. Businesses looking to identify these opportunities need to have the right skilled professionals on board. The demand for skilled interim and permanent accounting and finance professionals with business analytics experience continues to outweigh supply so finance leaders should act decisively.”

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

1 The annual study was developed by Robert Half UK and is conducted by an independent research firm.  The study is based on more than 200 interviews with senior finance executives from companies across the UK, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location.  Research was also undertaken with a further 1000 senior executives across 6 European countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

 

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500 and #1 in our industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s “World's Most Admired Companies” list (2015). Founded in 1948, the company has over 340 offices worldwide and 18 in the United Kingdom providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.