The finance function will increasingly become a pivotal partner in driving forward-looking data insights to evaluate an organisation’s performance against its purpose, according to a new joint report by PwC and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
Over 70% of the respondents surveyed in the report argued that the mainstream use of finance insights to evaluate an organisation’s performance against its purpose would be achieved in the next three to five years, highlighting a significant shift in the finance community’s contribution to the organisation.
The report Finance Insights – Reimagined explores the role of “finance business partners” – individuals, or a group of individuals, that act as the conduit between the finance function and its internal and external stakeholders – in helping to track data that is essential to strategic operational decisions and in understanding where value is being created across the organisation.
Integrated reporting is a key area where finance business partners can make this contribution, utilising the framework of six capitals to measure an organisation’s performance against its purpose: financial capital, manufactured capital, intellectual capital, human capital, social and responsible capital, and natural capital.
“Historically, we’ve been very focused on the financial value added. I think what we’re going to see, what we are seeing, and we will see more of is a balance around the six capitals,” says Brian Furness, Global Consulting Finance Leader, Partner, PwC UK.
Respondents indicated that finance business partners would be taking on a much larger role in evaluating performance across all six capitals in the next three to five years, particularly in non-financial areas:
- Over 60% believe that the finance function will be fundamental in evaluating intellectual capital, while over 40% view it as fundamental to evaluating human capital and social & responsible capital.
- 62% said that finance will be either fully or partially involved in evaluating natural capital performance.
However, in order for the finance function to lead with these added insights, it will need to evolve beyond its current skill set to incorporate a range of technical and soft skills, as well as business acumen driven by a new world view to assess operating model performance.
Currently, 55% of the respondents claimed that finance business partnering was a proactive role in their organisations, but only 37% reported that it was truly embedded in the organisation as a fundamental part of decision-making and strategy. The two most valued aspects in the role according to the respondents – business strategy development and the analysis of current performance – suggest that finance professionals might not yet be achieving the forward-looking view on which the future of the finance function may depend.
Yet, over 78% of the respondents see the role of finance business partners increasing and most of them believe it will increase significantly in the next three to five years. Oversight and guardianship of data integrity and standards, for instance, will be an important responsibility that respondents see as part of the development of the role.
With the broader measurement and evaluation of organisational purpose becoming increasingly fundamental to business transparency and performance, the finance function has the opportunity to use its capabilities to drive long-term value for the organisation.