Top priorities for finance leaders — from other finance leaders

Every two months, we survey 600 mid-sized business leaders across the country to understand their expectations and priorities for the future. Despite inflation slowing down, the latest results uncovered a 21 percentage point (pp) drop in businesses' optimism around the UK economy, and a 23pp drop in optimism around future revenue growth as we move towards 2024. 

We engaged with CFOs and FDs through CFO rooms, round-table discussions and other channels to better understand what's on their agenda during this period, and aligned their feedback with our CFO Scorecard, which outlines the key priorities for finance functions.  

Our latest edition reveals that finance leaders are still prioritising business protection, while also focusing on growth and alternative funding amid ongoing uncertainty. 

The CFO Scorecard

Here are the priorities finance leaders shared for this quarter:

Working capital management optimisation (value creation)
  • “I think its about time we look to review our cost base and non-essential spending in a bid to manage costs and cash. The issue is where do we start?” 
  •  We want to be ready for growth, ready to take advantage of opportunities that arise – but also ready to protect ourselves against potential shocksSo, we are going to focus hard on improving our working capital cycle to free up cash. 
  • We’ve seen more insolvencies recently – high profile and otherwise. It feels like time to start checking the credit worthiness of our credit base and consider payment terms again.” 

Find out more:

Article: Forecasting working capital in a financial model

Liquidity constraints and alternative funding available to businesses (value creation)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • We acknowledge the need to enhance business performance and remain competitive by investing in productivity, efficiency, and automation. However, our current financial resources are limited, and we are uncertain how to secure the necessary funds at the right price. For example, will we really get cheaper loan fundings if we have better ESG credentials? 
  •  Our attempts to extend our current borrowing agreements or obtain new financing through our bank have been unsuccessful. What alternative options are available to assist businesses like ours that are no longer being supported by traditional high street banks?  

Find out more

Find out how our debt advisory team can help you to fund your growth ambitions

Register for the upcoming webinar 29 November: Planning for Success in 2024, where we'll be discussing how businesses can continue to secure access to capital

Economic Conditions (business protection)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • “As the cost pressures begin to stabilise, and eventually ease, we are looking at new opportunitiesBut with the economic outlook is still very uncertain, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? 
  • Although interest rates have not increased for the first time since late 2021, there still seems to be a lot of uncertainty about how the economy will perform over the next year, and how the authorities will respondHow can we protect our business from this risk?
  •  While inflation pressures are easing, the return to normal is taking longer than we expectedWe are still seeing appreciable increases in labour, input, and borrowing costsHow do we protect our business without alienating our customers with further price rises?” 

Find out more

Uncover the latest Business Outlook Tracker results - our bimonthly survey of 600 mid-market business leaders

Register for our upcoming webinar on 29 November: Planning for Success in 2024, where we'll be discussing the UK economic outlook and what it means for businesses, backed by our latest research

Attracting, retaining and engaging your people (stakeholder management)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • “Attracting and retaining talent in the business continues to be a challenge for our organization. How can I ensure we are doing what we can to be an employer of choice in a focused and meaningful way in the face of really tough competition for candidates?” 
  •  “How do I know where to invest both effort and money into my employee value proposition to ensure we gain the best return on investment through attraction and retention?” 
  •  How do we ensure that our organisation's approach to inclusion and diversity is reflected in the evolving benefits and support we provide? For example, is there more we can do to flex employee benefits for changes in circumstances throughout their career, such as starting a family, experiencing health issues, or taking on caring responsibilities? 
  •  How do we ensure our pension schemes not only provide adequate retirement benefits for our employees but also align with the company's commitment to environmental and social impact? 

Find out more

Visit the People Agenda hub and register for upcoming events

Article: Applying ARC (agility, resilience and cost base) to your employee retention strategy

Article: The people agenda: building an inclusive workplace

Leading the way in technology, data and AI (value creation)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • “We hear a lot of hype about AI and machine learningWe don’t want to miss the bus on this- but equally we don’t want to go too fast when there are risksIs the hype warranted? “
  • “We have a fair few IT issues and opportunities.  What we don’t have is a plan that takes us away from tactical firefighting into something more like a long-term vision. “
  • “We are a small team heavily reliant on spreadsheets for critical financial processes, such as revenue recognition and reconciliations. What steps can we take to ensure a more efficient and streamlined process going forward with minimal disruption and cost?”  

Find out more

Watch on demand: Leveraging AI and automation in your finance function

Article: Optimising technology to reach your ARC aims

Considering the 'must haves' for tax (business protection)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • We are not convinced we have accelerated our tax reliefs to maximise full benefits. I’m considering a historic review of my asset register. 
  •  “With governments seeking to modernize sales, value-added tax, and other indirect tax systems, what steps can we take to prepare the business for these changes, and what challenges should we be anticipating during transition? 
  •  “We are considering the implementation of a tax technology solution for global VAT reporting. What are the key criteria that we should be using to assess and select potential solutions, and how can we ensure that the solution we choose is scalable and adaptable to future changes in tax regulations?  
  •  “We are reviewing our tax risks regarding labour in our supply chain. How does HMRC look at this and what might we consider in our tax risk review?” 

Find out more

Watch on demand: What do evolving tax authority practices mean for your business?

Article: Global developments in indirect taxation

Understanding the impact of your business strategy on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors (value creation)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • What should we consider about ESG and our M&A strategy?” 
  •  “What can we learn from the ESG litigation landscape to help us reduce our own litigation risk? 
  •  As regulations around ESG issues are likely to increase, what key areas should our organisation prioritize to ensure compliance and stay ahead of the curve? How can we proactively identify and address ESG-related risks and opportunities, and what internal processes and standards should we implement to support these efforts? 
  •  “How can we measure and report on our progress towards ESG goals when we don’t necessarily capture all the data, and how can we ensure that these efforts align with our broader business strategy? 
  • “I’ve heard that there are new international sustainability reporting standards, I understand they are not yet in force in the UK and may well only be focused on larger/listed entities initially, but what should I know about them to help me prepare for the future if we do end up falling within their scope?” 

Find out more

Article: Prepare now for a renewed focus on supply chain risk

Article: Green growth: finding opportunities in ESG

Article: The evolving ESG litigation landscape

Article: What does the CSRD mean for the UK?

Driving efficiency across finance functions (operational delivery)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • "The adoption of AI in Finance has gained significant momentum. Is it really realistic for an organization like ours to adopt AI and machine learning yet?"
  • "As our business continues to grow, we have come to realize that our heavy reliance on Excel to produce monthly reporting packs is both time-consuming and prone to errors. As spreadsheets and workbooks become increasingly inefficient, we find ourselves spending hours each month reconciling differences."
  • "Our team has already seen the benefits of automating certain processes in terms of driving efficiency and freeing up time for more value-added activities. However, we are looking for additional ways to truly add value through automation. What strategies or tools can we leverage to achieve this?"

Find out more

Tool: Automate and custom your management reporting activities

Sign up for the 21 November CFO Forum: How to make change happen

General governance (business protection)

CFOs and FDs tell us:

  • As a business that has numerous operating leases and reports under UK GAAP, we have been informed that new lease accounting regulations are set to take effect soon We are a little concerned about how much effort it will take to address this – and the impact it may have on our covenant calculations. 
  • We have appointed a senior accounting officer (SAO), but we are unsure what we need to do to comply with HMRC tax obligations?” 
  • With the FRC’s latest review on non-financial reporting requirements, it feels like we need to look at our annual report againFinding the right balance between compliance and being digestible is a challenge! 

Find out more

Article: IFRS S1 and IFRS S2

Article: New accounting rules could impact financial covenants for the mid-market

Article: The Smarter Regulation Non financial reporting Review

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