Finance Directors unveil top 10 most pressing issues

London cityscape

20 July 2018

Controlling costs is the biggest worry for finance chiefs, according to a new survey of Finance Directors and CFOs by ICAS.

Growing revenues is their second most pressing concern while recruitment and retention are rated third. Cyber-security comes in fourth place.

There has been some shuffling in the “Top 10 issues” table from last year. “Controlling costs” is back in its number one position and “recruitment and retention” has just edged “cybersecurity” back into fourth place.

Top 10 issues on the FDs’ agenda

(2017 rankings shown in brackets.)

  1. Controlling costs (2)
  2. Growing revenues (1)
  3. Recruitment and retention (4)
  4. Cyber-security (3)
  5. Fraud prevention (5)
  6. Corporate governance (8)
  7. Other IT issues (6)
  8. E-commerce and the Internet (10)
  9. Bringing new products and services to the market (7)
  10. Regulatory issues (UK) (13)

One significant trend is that cyber-security continues to hold a place in the top five issues on the FDs’ agenda. Not long ago it was hardly on the radar but then in 2016 it was the fifth-rated issue and in 2017 it was rated third most important, even above staff recruitment and retention.

It’s perhaps no surprise that cyber security features in the top four headaches for the FD.
- Bruce Cartwright CA 

Bruce Cartwright CA, Chief Executive of ICAS commented: “Historically, controlling costs, growing revenues and recruitment and retention have consistently been Finance Directors’ top priorities.

“But with the increasing reliance we all place on information technology, and the ever-increasing array of threats from ‘distributed denial of service’ attacks to targeted phishing by fraudsters, it’s perhaps no surprise that cyber security features in the top four headaches for the FD.”

Hiring, firing and key issues

Half of respondents reported increased hiring in 2018 (18% report a decrease in hiring). Paradoxically, 23% of FDs expected to see redundancies in their organisation in the remainder of 2018 (2017: 17%).

Biggest technology impacts on the FD role
The survey also asked what FDs see as the biggest impact of technology on their role.

Organisations need to take time to understand what the workforce of the future will look like.
- Andrew Walker CA

Key themes included:

  • “Big data” and the opportunities created by data analytics.
  • Automation and real-time information cutting out routine manual processes and creating “flatter” management structures.
  • The increased threat presented by cyber-security issues, malware and similar IT problems.Increased use of social media as a communication platform.

Andrew Walker CA, Partner with Johnston Carmichael, commented: “While we can’t sit back and wait for events to unfold, organisations need to take time to understand what the workforce of the future will look like, and take a fresh look at their attitudes to talent, to ensure whatever investment they make in people shows fairly quickly on their bottom line.”

Opinion split on economy

Finance chiefs are divided on the economy, with 50% predicting “flat or negligible” growth for the UK (below 1%) and 41% expecting to see “modest” growth (above 1% but not more than 2.5%).

Fears of negative growth have decreased from 16% in 2017 to only 2% in 2018.

FDs at small organisations (less than £10m turnover) were more pessimistic, with only 39% predicting growth above 1%, compared with 53% of those in large organisations (£100m turnover or above).

FDs and CFOs have been on a rollercoaster ride over the past five years. As many as 82% were confident of growth over 1% in 2014, but that figure fell to 14% in 2016, after the UK’s referendum on EU membership.

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