Digital transformation in finance functions

Today, we launched our latest research project on technology and the profession – Digital transformation in finance functions: ASEAN and UK perspectives. The report, in conjunction with the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, shares the practical experience and insights of ICAEW and ISCA members in the UK and across in the ASEAN region on how finance functions are adapting to new technologies. 

It’s an important topic because technology itself only gets us so far – to make the most of technology opportunities, organisations need to change and adapt, and this isn’t an easy process. While the overall vision for digital transformation in finance is clear – automating as many repeatable processes as possible and spending more time providing insights to the business – many finance functions still have a long way to go in achieving this. Looking at the issues from across the UK and ASEAN countries such as Singapore also provides a rich base of experience to draw from.

The report has three key messages:

  • There is a pressing need to move to business partnering – automation frees people up to do more value adding work and for finance functions, that translates primarily into business partnering work. The research highlighted a range of experience here, with some functions far more advanced than others in working closely with business functions to deliver greater value. However, as automation continues to advance, finance needs to build this wider role if it is to retain relevance and influence. Given the pace of change, the research picked up a strong sense of urgency here.
  • People are key to transformation – while not a new idea, the research strongly emphasised the importance of reskilling, training and culture change when delivering value from new technologies. Jobs are changing as a result of automation and staff need the skills to deliver higher-value work, as well as the right attitude which embraces change and learning.
  • Small steps matter – transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long journey, usually involving higher levels of process standardisation and data governance, as well as culture change. Valuing the incremental changes along the way, and making sure that everyone feels part of the change, is vital to maintain momentum.

We launched the report this morning in Singapore, with over 150 finance professionals in attendance at our event with ISCA. Even though our panel discussion lasted over an hour, we didn’t get close to answering all of the audience questions! The discussion was wide-ranging but emphasised reskilling, embracing change and thinking big in terms of the opportunities for finance. See some pictures below.


So there is lots of interest in the topic and I’ll be talking about it with members, students and other stakeholders as I travel around the ASEAN region over the next few weeks.