CFOs reveal that it’s no longer about what technology can do, but what finance professionals do with it.
An enlightening, tech-centred conversation was hosted by CFO South Africa’s community manager, Brian Chivere, and featured panellists Tamuka Mpofu, CFO at Finclusion Group, Paul St Quintin, intelligent automation capability lead at EY Africa, Beyond Mobility CFO Veliswa Rozani, and Riaan Koppeschaar, financial director of Exxaro Resources.
The interactive conversation was enabled in partnership with Kyriba, a complete treasury management solution. Keith Stewart, sales manager at Kyriba, began the session with a short presentation about the company and how their platform can benefit CFOs, particularly in the South African market, as the Dubai-headquartered Kyriba recently opened an office in Johannesburg.
According to Keith, Kyriba’s cloud-based platform is used in over 140 countries, and it has 65,000 active users. It began as a SaaS platform in 2002 but has since evolved into an “active enterprise liquidity management system” to assist with strategic finance objectives, risk management, visibility, reporting decisions, and intelligent insights. In fact, a recent International Data Corporation report ranked Kyriba as one of the global leaders in the finance management industry.
Time is money – and tech saves time
Paul began the conversation by talking about limitations – or rather, the lack thereof. “It’s no longer about technology and what it can do, but what we do with it,” emphasised Paul.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘What are the things that we, as the finance function, need to do to achieve our strategic objectives?” said Paul. “Then, from an operational or client perspective, what do we need to activate to achieve that; what digital capabilities are needed to deliver fundamental value?”
According to Paul, tech can help CFOs be more effective at their jobs – it’s not about replacing humans, it’s about ‘taming robots’. “The focus right now is how to leverage technology so that it helps us become more effective and efficient,” said Paul.
Riaan pointed out that Exxaro, which is a mining company, has embarked on leveraging digitisation to provide visibility for the entire value chain. This has proved highly beneficial: through RPA (Robotic Process Automation, an advanced form of business process automation), output has increased by five percent.
“That doesn’t sound like much, but in the mining industry it’s hundreds of millions of rands,” said Riaan.
Before Exxaro embarked on their RPA journey, they had to ensure the correct backbone was in place – otherwise it would’ve been a huge waste of money.
“We have mines in remote places; there’s no Wi-Fi, and underground there’s no coverage. So, we had to do a lot of work beforehand to get things in place, like installing 5G networks,” said Riaan. He admitted this comes with a hefty price tag, so it’s crucial that processes are optimised before any tech is implemented.
“If you have an inefficient process and just impose a robot, it’ll be a case of garbage in, garbage out.”
For Veliswa, digital strategy should always be part of the larger business strategy. She shared that the finance function at Beyond Mobility employed a tech solution by focusing on one process that needed improvement – payment allocations. It was taking four hours to complete, and a robot was put in place to make the process faster and more efficient. This is exactly what happened, and many hours have been saved since the deployment.
“There might be a few issues to sort out manually, but the payments and debtors’ team could now spend time on value-add tasks, like providing insight into the business’s operations,” said Veliswa.
“It has saved time, and time is money. Of course, there’s a lot of investment that goes into it, so it’s important to see the benefits not only in rands, but also in happy customers with their accounts in order.”
Tamuka, a CFO at a fintech, highlighted how his company provides a user interface that offers a one-stop financial solutions shop, which is supported by an ever-evolving tech stack.
“It’s process automation, and it has saved hundreds of hours. Technology like this unlocks value from the finance team so they can focus on other, more important tasks.”
He added that his company has moved away from IT and finance being in separate silos – the CTO and CFO work closely together.
“The relationship is mutually beneficial, collaborative, and symbiotic,” said Tamuka.
Expect change, and embrace change
According to Veliswa, while buy-in from senior leadership is essential for any tech implementation, it’s important to give people time to get on board and adjust.
“Change generally makes people unsettled. Especially in a Covid-19 world with job losses, you have to reassure people that the technology is there to help them, not replace them. It’s not always about cost-cutting, either. It’s underpinned by investment. But humans don’t know what tomorrow holds; they need to trust the strategy and see the value it brings. The proof is in the pudding.”
Riaan added that the role of finance is changing, as it’s no longer “just about numbers”. Riaan pointed out that his finance department now deals with everything from greenhouse gas emissions to governance matters.
“Finance isn’t backwards-looking anymore,” said Riaan. “We are custodians of relevant information, and technological tools enable us to extract that information so we can share it more reliably and faster.”
“Tech is an evolving space; it’s fast-moving,” concluded Tamuka. “Expect change, embrace change –it’s going to happen.”