Finance Indaba 2018 Q&A: The Finance Business Partner's Carol Lupiya

Carol Lupiya is the Africa region director for The Finance Business Partner. With a background that spans financial and management accounting and management consulting in public and private sectors, Carol brings her broad experience to companies with the finance business partnering concept - one that she tells CFO Magazine is the key to finance driving better business performance and businesses escaping the 'silo-ism' mentality.

Q.   Tell us a little about your professional background.
"My career involves a strong blend of financial and management accounting, procurement advisory consulting, enterprise and supplier development strategy development and implementation and SME training. I’ve got solid sub-Saharan experience, having worked in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. Although finance makes up the biggest chunk of my career, the last six years of my career has in consulting. The projects I have covered include: optimising business processes, optimising costs and implementing cost savings, development enterprise supplier development strategies, and implementing monitoring and evaluation systems for developmental programs, developing strategies for procurement and category management, developing course materials for SMMEs and delivering the training. "

Q. What is the thinking behind The Finance Business Partner?
"What prompted me to join The Finance Business Partner is the challenge that I consistently saw in business when I worked as an accountant and consultant, and this is the challenge of "silo-ism". It is such an issue in companies across industries. Business units don't talk to each other and Finance is best suited to glue everyone together because we are the only remit that is involved in every aspect of the organisation."

"I believe that finance should be leading the change from operating in a ‘silo mentality’ within the organisation to one that breaks down these walls for greater efficiency and value. We in finance are better placed to promote that change, to be the leaders of collaboration within an enterprise, because we have an enterprise-wide view. We bring all the numbers together and we tell the story for the entire organisation."

"I started to look for ways that finance can work across the business better, and that's when I encountered the concept of business partnering. From there, I did some training and certifications in this concept to gain better understanding on how finance can bring value into the business by helping and influencing commercial decisions, and most importantly, how finance can drive better business performance - rather than just reporting and monitoring business performance. The Finance Business Partner is a global team of consultants offering a four-step programme aimed at enhancing the way of working for the finance leaders and their teams."

"The Finance Business Partner program is designed to create strategic thinking aiding finance leaders and their teams to change and adapt in the face of finance process automation."

Q. What is ‘silo-ism’ and what problems does it create?
"This is just one example of many I can give you, at one of our clients we discovered that for one service – document management – the different business units within the company had different contractual rates with the same supplier. We conducted a market price check on the service, and phoned the service provider in question to enquire about their current rates. We were offered a better rate than what they were currently charging our client, who had been their client for over 11 years. Think of the savings (both in time and costs) that this one example represents, if my client’s business units had worked in collaboration."

Q. What impact do you see technology having in the finance field?
For years we’ve been reading about the future of finance through automation and robotics, but I believe we need to change our language. The future of finance and technology is now. We're living it now. Already, 90 percent of your transactional accounting processes should be automated, are going to be automated, and are already automated. The companies that have not yet automated are lagging. If you look at like accounts payable transactions, the entire process is increasingly becoming an automated workflow with minimal human intervention."

"Therein lies the opportunity for finance to transcend transaction processing and performance reporting to providing commercial and strategic insight, that instinct that can’t and doesn’t come from computers."

"Freed-up finance can begin to understand the critical revenue points of the business by working closely with business unit managers and influence better business performance. This is the call for effective finance business partnering."

Q. Why are you partnering with the Finance indaba?
"I'm part of a global network of finance business partners, but when I hear or read about the success stories in this space, very few of them 'are' from the African market or context. I’d like to promote the concept of Finance Business Partner as a way of transforming finance teams. It will also be a great opportunity to gather success stories on the concept. The Finance Indaba presents an excellent opportunity to engage with a broad range of finance professionals, to garner their input and to collaborate towards effective finance business partnering in the African business environment."