Finance flash: the TOP-10 articles of week 1-2, 2018

Do you want to keep up to date with the latest developments in finance, but you are short of time? Don't worry. CFO South Africa weekly collects 10 of the most important articles from international media for your convenience.

1. Economic Narratives for 2018 Are Too Simplistic
In 2017, GDP growth picked up, solidifying a global expansion phase that had previously been slow and erratic. The number of countries growing at rates consistent with their potential increased to levels not seen since prior to the global financial crisis. As expansion gathers pace and, in some cases, becomes long by historical standards, it is time to wonder where the next crisis will come from and how we will deal with it.

2. How to use Excel in seasonal forecasting
Operations managers are often the people with the best understanding of demand for products and services and the cost to deliver those items. Yet, many of them don’t have the skills to deliver a forecast to the level that senior management requires. Finance professionals can offer this analysis, but they often are not close enough to the operations to understand them sufficiently.

3. Metric of the Month: Finance Function Cost
The new year is a great time to consider the role your finance organization is playing in creating a successful enterprise. But in a world in which CFOs are increasingly expected to accomplish more with fewer resources, it’s important to track how much it costs to run your finance function.

4. Advice for managing the length of annual reports
When drafting annual reports, preparers face a difficult balancing act. They must satisfy regulators and provide a comprehensive overview for stakeholders, but too much information can make a report difficult to digest. The annual reports of FTSE 350 companies now average 186 pages, up 26% over the past five years, according to EY’s most recent study on the topic, Annual Reporting in 2016–17: Broad Perspective, Clear Focus. And that means report preparers must work harder than ever to make sure they remain focused and relevant in their reporting.

5. Cybersecurity Tops Boards’ 2018 To-Do Lists
Cybersecurity will be the hottest topic for boards of directors this year, according to the latest annual list from law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The “winner” was not much of a surprise, given that 2017 was riddled with high-profile attacks, including those targeting Equifax, Uber, Yahoo, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “No crisis should go to waste,” says Akin Gump, counseling boards to learn from those organizations’ misfortunes.

6. What the Productivity Paradox Means for Our Economic Future
In his seminal 2016 book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Robert Gordon of Northwestern University made a provocative claim—compared to the five waves of technological shifts of the past (electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine, and modern communication), the economic impact from ongoing IT developments is downright ordinary. 

7. Robo-Advisers Are Coming to Consulting and Corporate Strategy
Does a robot manage your money?  For many of us, the answer is yes. Online and algorithmic investment and financial advice is easy to come by these days, usually under the moniker of “robo-advisor.” It’s clear that robo-advisors and AI play an important and growing role in the financial services industry, but a question remains.  Will robo-advisors disrupt corporate capital allocation the same way they have personal capital allocation? And, will they shake up the trillion-dollar corporate consulting and advisory industry?

8. What AI can and can’t do (yet) for your business
Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be everywhere. We experience it at home and on our phones. Before we know it—if entrepreneurs and business innovators are to be believed—AI will be in just about every product and service we buy and use. In addition, its application to business problem solving is growing in leaps and bounds. And at the same time, concerns about AI’s implications are rising: we worry about the impact of AI-enabled automation on the workplace, employment, and society.

9. It’s more than finance: the role of CFOs in digital transformation
There’s no escaping the fact that extraordinary digital change is impacting businesses, and that the pace of change is accelerating. That leaves organisations with a headache: such is the breadth of digital transformation, who is actually responsible for driving it? This is a subject addressed by an IFS Digital Transformation Survey. When asked who within the company has responsibility for driving digital transformation, the respondents call out the CIO (40% of the respondents), CEO (39%), and the CFO (35%), while the CTO (20%) and the CMO (6%) are not considered as influential in this area.

10. Richard Branson Says This 1 Word Will Give You an Extraordinary Life
Richard Branson has a nickname among employees at his Virgin empire--"Doctor Yes." He got that nickname because of how often he says yes to things. Saying that one word as often as you can, especially to things that frighten you, can make all the difference. "Even if I have no idea where I'm going or how to get there, I prefer to say yes instead of no," Branson writes in a recent blog post. Branson admits that saying yes too often has gotten him into some trouble over the years, which is something of an understatement.