Finance flash: the TOP-10 articles of week 43, 2018

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. Companies’ AI Leaders Sense Competitive Urgency
A lot of companies are just now starting to create use cases for cognitive technologies and artificial intelligence. A bit ahead of them are those that are staging limited pilot projects. It’s early days, they may be thinking. Why rush now to invest a lot of capital and effort in something with an uncertain payoff? But many of the companies with real wet feet — those with at least one operating cognitive prototype or full-scale implementation — don’t think they have a lot of time to waste in ramping up their volume of AI usage.

2. The business value of design
We all know examples of bad product and service design. The USB plug (always lucky on the third try). The experience of rushing to make your connecting flight at many airports. The exhaust port on the Death Star in Star Wars......

3. How to exude confidence
For financial managers struggling to advance, often the biggest career obstacle isn’t a dearth of opportunity but a lack of confidence. They simply do not have faith in their own ability to leap, to swing, to take a step into new and uncomfortable territory. People who lack confidence “constantly second-guess themselves and their abilities,” said Joy Medos, an executive coach based in Austria and supervisory board member for Gabor Shoes AG.

4. Fact and Fantasy About Buybacks: The International Evidence
Buybacks are under attack. In the first place, from left-wing United States politicians such as Elizabeth Warren who is co-sponsoring legislation aimed at curbing buybacks. The argument is that companies should use excess cash to increase salaries and create jobs, leaving out the fact that both measures are contradictory.  But buybacks are also criticised by non-socialists who see them as a short-term stock price manipulation scheme, allowing insiders to cash out at inflated stock prices. This manipulation hypothesis predicts that, as a result of buybacks, companies will underinvest, undermining long-term performance and shareholder value.

5. 250 organizations are joining forces to end plastic waste
In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the massive Ocean Cleanup device is currently beginning its first attempt to fish plastic trash out of the sea. It’s a difficult challenge, but the systemic challenge is significantly larger: Every minute, the equivalent of another garbage truckload of plastic enters the water globally. The world’s use of plastic only increases every year.

6. To Get Your Team to Use Data, Demystify It
For some of your team members, the idea of using data to inform decision-making can feel intimidating. Maybe they don’t consider themselves to have strong analytical skills. Maybe they felt overwhelmed by their statistics course in college. Maybe they like to “go with their gut,” or simply dread the idea of wading through a ton of data. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you can show your team that there are simple, straightforward ways to make a big impact with data, it will go a long way toward getting your employees to use data more often in their day-to-day decision-making.

7. The shifting shape of ethics
Today’s global and highly competitive markets keep piling on the pressure on management accounting professionals striving to perform to the highest standards of ethics and transparency. We chatted with CFOs from different areas of the world who shared their thoughts on the challenges, changes, and future of ethics.

8. New rules force retailers to rethink lease accounting
New rules on how retailers account for the costs of renting their premises are likely to have a significant impact on profits and valuations, and could even force some to renegotiate debt agreements, analysts and advisers have warned. “Historically, the expense of leases was simply recorded as an operating cost in the profit-and-loss account. Now you’ve got to bring them on to the balance sheet as assets and corresponding liabilities,” said Nick Chandler, a partner at KPMG specialising in accounting advisory services. “It’s a fundamentally different piece of accounting.”

9. Salaries of finance directors based on experience
Research indicates steady pay growth remains a non-issue for the vast majority of financial directors in 2018. But when it comes to bagging the best possible salary increase, experience is definitely key, writes Nash Riggins.

10. Google Evaluates Leadership Skills Using These 13 Questions. How Would You Rank? (And How Would Your Employees Rate You?)
That's a question Google spends considerable time and effort trying to answer. (It only makes sense that one of the most analytical companies in the world puts some of its analytical horsepower into determining how great teams are built and led.) Over time, the company determined the key behaviors of its best team managers. And then Google started asking team members to answer the following questions, using a 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) scale.