Lessons from finance leaders at NeuGroup meetings in Singapore highlight success factors for business partner roles.
By Joseph Neu
How to navigate finance-business partner roles and related activities in Asia—where they really matter—emerged as an underlying theme at NeuGroup meetings in Singapore last week. Here are a few of my takeaways from lively discussions with finance leaders ranging from regional treasurers to CFOs.
Translator applications. “We are a translator for global corporate strategy and business conditions in each of the regional markets,” explained one member.
- It is often HQ that needs to better understand how business plans play out in each of Asia’s markets—and the extent to which each one is different.
- There’s a bias to take a regional approach akin to Europe, members said. For most MNCs, Asia is 12 to 14 distinct markets.
Of course, supporting business efforts in each local market also requires finance to translate corporate goals into terms that make sense to business operations there.
- If local managers don’t understand how to implement the corporate plan in their market, it won’t succeed.
Technology is a huge enabler. Translator apps on your smartphone or PC make basic communications across languages easier in the region.
- Technology to interpret is only getting better.
- AI, including ChatGPT, is already writing English emails for team members. This is a time-saver.
Other ways of saving time with technology from auto-reconciliation to programmable money are pulling more transactional work out of human hands so finance teams can focus more on business partner needs.
- While technology is pulling more of the low-value work out of the periphery, it is also making all the data available to support business decisions in real time.
A final way technology is enabling better finance-business partnerships is with modeling scenarios for improved planning and risk identification.
- Twin models offer a virtual world view of the business (e.g., its supply chains) to scenario plan and identify risks, plus test responses to support business decisions as real-world conditions change.
- Predictive modeling is also proving so accurate that forecasting is no longer a pain point, especially where data is unlocked in digital businesses.
Getting to yes. The finance organization needs to fight the problem of being seen by agile business leaders as always saying no.
- Enterprise-grade governance and controls—applied to new account openings, new payments currencies and new business model creations, etc.—contribute to finance being seen as blockers vs facilitators.
- Countering the negative perception and getting to “yes” in support of a business transformation means finance must be extremely proactive in searching for solutions and identifying opportunities to grow before business partners ask.
Finance is still finance. All the talk of embedding finance in the business suggests that a standalone finance function may become a thing of the past. Not so, say strategic finance professionals.
- Ultimately, finance still needs to be able to talk as finance with finance (it’s a line of defense on business overoptimism, etc.).
- So finance leaders need reporting lines and performance goals on the right side of the control line to keep balance in the partnership.