Experts Advocate Intelligent Finance Operations in Nigeria

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Raheem Akingbolu

Finance professionals must evolve alongside with the finance function, acquire the right skills and embrace the dynamics of technology in order to remain relevant in a rapidly changing economic landscape.

These were the views expressed by speakers at the second edition of the CGMA Speaks Series, organised by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) on Thursday in Lagos under the theme; “Future of Finance.”

Moderated by the Executive Vice President, Academics, The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), Dr. Noel Tagoe, speakers at the event also emphasised the need for finance professionals to understand and translate data into insight for right decision making by chief executive officers.

In his remarks, Executive Chairman, Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Dotun Sulaiman, who was the Chairman of the event, said finance functions would be altered by certain forces of change from the global economy, including demography, urbanisation, scarcity of resources and technology.

He, however, stated that as a broad response to the changing role of finance, “it would be important for finance to take a keen interest in technology innovation and keep abreast of the developments and for finance executives to strive for a level of familiarity with technology innovations”, warning that “organisations that are blindsided by these technology innovations will lose out.”

Delivering a Keynote Address, the National Senior Partner, KPMG Nigeria, Kunle Elebute, who was represented by the Head, Risk Consulting, KPMG Nigeria, Olumide Olayinka, said organisations must operate intelligent finance functions. He also added that Chief Financial Officers should utilise business intelligence tools such as the enterprise resource planning software and decision support tools to mitigate future financial risk.

“Essentially, your finance function has to be intelligent. In fact, finance is not separate from risk because people try to put them into different buckets, but finance functions are the same as risk. This is because the things that will have financial implications are multifaceted. So, the finance function of tomorrow has to be extremely intelligent. It must have business intelligence tools, both financial and non-financial, and all of these have impact on the future of finance”, he said.

Noting that the finance function of the future would be “significantly changed” by the use of technological innovations such as bloc-chains, cloud tech, robotics and big data analysis, Elebute stated that finance function should be reviewed and standardised, and that finance professionals must have the right skills to ensure proper implementation of finance tasks.

Also speaking, Managing Director, Chapel Hill Denham Management, Onouju Irukwu, said finance professionals must operate beyond numbers by turning the data available into insights in order to earn the respect of their superiors and clients. She also said accountants must evolve and change their orientation from being a pure accountant to a business oriented accountant.

According to Irukwu, “None of us can survive in this business if we don’t have information, can’t analyse our data with that information and make the right decisions that will take us forward. Finance has got to be a business partner. Finance professionals must understand the business perspective. Everyone should understand that sanitising the data you get and then interpreting it accurately is important so that the CEO can rely on it.”

The Head of Finance, SAP West Africa, Gbemisola Adelowore, emphasised the need for finance professionals to work with data specialists in order to know where and how to acquire the relevant information.

“Before you work with the data, I think it is important that finance professionals actually work with the number crunchers in directing them on where to get the data and what kind of data to get because you know, garbage in is garbage out. If you don’t have the right data or right source of information, then the output will not be helpful at all”, she said.