As 2023 starts to accelerate, UK finance leaders are reviewing their rapidly expanding resolutions list – a list which will no doubt contain hastily scribbled points about increasing efficiency and better protecting and utilising data.
Indeed, according to a recent survey of more than 200 UK finance leaders, the top three priorities for finance departments over the next 12 months include cybersecurity (44%), Cloud and SaaS systems (42%), and big data analytics (29%).
Laurent Charpentier, CEO at Yooz said, Finance leaders are choosing to focus on cyber, cloud and big data because, in the digital age, these are the three core pillars for sound and secure financial management.
Not only do they provide businesses with improved financial visibility, but they also provide the ability to securely index and store large amounts of business-critical data, acting as a security checkpoint for both company and client information. The accidental disclosure of sensitive information, reputational-damaging errors, and the need for wieldy paperwork are all avoided as part of this.
Below are the three top areas of investment for finance departments in 2023 and why now is the time to prioritise them.
Cyber-attacks are an ever-present concern for organisations of all sectors and industries. Organisational victims of cybercrime in 2022 include Microsoft, the Red Cross and Cambridge Water, all forming part of a significant increase in cyberattacks from 2021.
A recent study indicated that in the UK, 81% of organisations had experienced at least one cyber-attack in the year prior to the survey, compared to 71% in the previous year.
The same study also revealed that UK firms had the fifth lowest spend on IT security, at just over 11 per cent of their respective IT budgets.
Given that human errors are common causes of cybersecurity breaches, with 82% of data breaches involving a human element, finance staff must be trained on the various cybersecurity risks and best practices to prevent breaches, including how to spot phishing schemes, encourage the use of strong passwords, and guard against socially engineered attacks.
To efficiently fight against attacks, financial departments should look to bake security measures into their day-to-day activities and processes – a shift to continuous security monitoring using automation.
Automation acts as the ultimate safety net in the detection and prevention of cyber-attacks in finance, capable of detecting and preventing fraud much faster and more effectively than the average worker.
Being able to authenticate original documents as well as automatically detect invoice fraud and other forged documents holds considerable value for businesses, especially those which deal with customer data and other sensitive information.
Internal control rules using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can also automatically detect duplicate invoices and inconsistent data, such as account number, total cost, and even the date of purchase, preventing any unauthorised payments from being made.
Digital signatures and encryption are also used on documents for added security, while full traceability throughout the process can provide authorities with the identification of the fraudster and their actions.
It wasn’t too long ago that finance solutions were predominantly licenced and deployed onsite. But with the long-term move towards remote and hybrid working, Cloud- and SaaS-based technology has become a cornerstone of digital business.
Thanks to the benefits of cloud software, accounts payable teams can meet the three requirements of modern finance departments: reactivity, productivity, and agility. With access to cloud/SaaS solutions, finance teams can work whenever they want, which can help to support improving retention rates, as well as making the business more attractive to new starters, in addition to providing a solid base for improving productivity.
In addition, cloud/SaaS solutions provide better security compared to on-premise solutions and provide complete visibility of the digital payment process in one platform. Through the use of secure login credentials, employees can connect to company data, systems and software to complete their tasks from remote locations, without having to undertake manual software updates as the systems are maintained automatically.
But, something which is pertinent right now, cloud systems can also help businesses deal with uncertainty and ‘black-swan’ events. As no one knows what the next nightmare might be, it helps to invest in flexible systems that can scale up and down, while costs coming from an operational expenditure rather than capital spend is also an added benefit.
With systems delivered through the cloud, businesses can gain high-performance solutions at their fingertips without having to invest in and maintain expensive hardware.
- Big data analytics
Finance departments, by their nature, are one of the most data-intensive functions, representing a unique opportunity to process, analyse, and leverage data in constructive ways.
For example, big data analytics can help financial departments to identify fraudulent activities and can provide take steps to prevent them because the data is readily available and can be used to detect unusual financial activity, which can be traced to the source.
Additionally, big data analytics can help businesses to identify risks early on and take steps to mitigate them because, whether historical or real-time data is analysed both can provide valuable insights into customers, partners, as well as transactions companies.
This is a powerful tool which companies can use to hone their strategic objectives, in an attempt to become more responsive to the wants and needs of their customers.
Armed with big data analytics, finance leaders are finding new opportunities to improve predictive modelling, provide better forecasting, as well as making more informed decisions based on large data sets.
Keep the focus on supporting the bottom line
A new year brings new priorities, and finance leaders must focus on investing smartly to bolster their security, productivity and longevity.
Financial leaders must grapple with how to turn smart digital investments into wins. Focusing on initiatives that drive transformation, elevate levels of digital capabilities within their teams, and support a drive for better forecasting and harnessing all available data will ensure success.
Ultimately finance departments must focus on maximising financial cyber security, as well as looking to create efficiency savings in both time and productivity – all of which have a positive impact on the bottom line.