The Evolution of the Finance function: From Gatekeepers to Enablers

29 March 2020   |   9 minutes read

People have been recording business transactions since 7500 BC. But while it all started off as a way to stay in control — making sense of the numbers and trying to curb behaviours that could hurt a business’s bottom line — today’s finance function is also tasked with an increasingly strategic role.

To succeed in ever more complex global markets, modern businesses must ground their plans and base critical decisions on accurate data and insights. Finance is uniquely positioned to deliver both, because it’s the only function with access to the full picture.

As Soldo’s CEO Carlo Gualandri puts it in our on-demand webinar Unlock Knowledge to Create Growth: A Finance Leader’s Guide: “The finance function is the custodian of the fuel that powers the engine of business.” The catch is that, alongside this strategic role, finance must also keep the books in order and understand where money is going.

So how can you juggle both roles effectively and create more value for your business?

When slow and steady won’t work

Finance teams are getting comfortable with their new role as influencers in the boardroom. Over 5,500 finance professionals surveyed for a CGMA study said they’d like to spend more time advising and supporting decision-makers.

The problem is that Everest-like piles of spreadsheets and other manual processes are getting in the way. Finance teams are spending 39% of their work week collecting and processing data. This leaves little time for analysis, let alone putting together and communicating insights.

The same goes when it comes to budgeting, another critical component of business growth.

Holding the purse strings is a core finance function. But because spend management typically relies on corporate credit cards or expense reports — techniques that are manual, time-consuming, and don’t offer real time visibility — keeping a handle on spending is tricky, to put it mildly.

Can finance enable growth without unraveling the purse strings?

In our on-demand webinar, Soldo’s CEO Carlo Gualandri notes that there’s a tension between empowerment and control. As the old adage goes, you need to spend money to make money. But if you don’t keep a close eye on that spending, the risks will outweigh the rewards.

The good news is that tech has made striking a balance simpler than ever before. With the right tech in place, you can:

  • Automate manual tasks
  • Delegate spending while keeping control
  • Unlock insights that’ll enable better decision-making

Using finance automation to cut busywork

From reconciliations to expense management and reporting, finance automation can slash the paperwork and steps required to get the job done.

Modern finance automation tools can connect spend to business bank accounts, import, and categorise transactions automatically. Which means less time manually checking, cleaning up, and organising data.

Similarly, with an expense management platform like Soldo, there’s no need for expense reports, manual reconciliations, or reimbursements. Every staff member has their own prepaid card for work expenses and uploads receipts through a smartphone app. Your team can access the data from a dashboard which also connects to your accounting program, so there’s no need to input data by hand.

More delegation, more control

Because it’s small or infrequent — software subscriptions, stationery, or laptops, for instance — it’s not practical for variable spending to go through procurement. But paying with corporate credit cards or letting employees pay out of pocket and reimbursing them makes staying in control harder.

Tech such as Soldo solves the issue by letting you delegate without losing visibility or control.

You can preload individual staff members’ physical and virtual Mastercards with a set amount, depending on who they are. So, the Head of Sales could get £50,000 a month while a junior executive gets £1000. You can also create shared accounts for departmental or project budgets.

At the same time, the dashboard lets you restrict certain purchases. You can also find out exactly how much individual staff members have spent and on what in real time.

Always have the full-picture

Tools that record transactions and let you monitor spending in real time free you up from admin so you can focus on high value tasks. But, even better, you can get a snapshot of the business’s financial health at any point. And this means you can make decisions you couldn’t make before.

Where in the past you’d have had to go through credit card statements or expense reports line by line to discover the sales team’s quarterly client entertaining spend, tools like Soldo make it as easy as logging on to your dashboard.

The upshot is that you can quickly identify inefficiencies and address them, produce more accurate forecasts, and create better budgets.

Tech can help finance teams make a quantum leap

Finance is a key business function, but it’s typically also the least agile. Implementing finance automation tools allows you to enable better decision-making instead of holding things back.

Soldo’s CEO Carlo Gualandri puts it this way: “At the moment, it’s like instead of streaming a whole movie on Netflix, you’re only watching the first 10 minutes and waiting until tomorrow to watch the next 10… “

Why go that way, when you can binge it the same day?

Want to learn more about how tech can help you spend less time on admin and more time advising and supporting decision-makers? Listen to our on-demand webinar Unlock Knowledge to Create Growth: A Finance Leader’s Guide

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