NAFA 2022: Finance functions remain at the heart of change

The event brings together leaders and experts from across the GCC to discuss the existing professional landscape



KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab
by

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Tue 17 May 2022, 12:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 17 May 2022, 2:47 PM

Finance and accounting professionals have today found themselves in a unique position where they are at the heart of a digital transformation journey that not only improves efficiency and agility, but also cash flows, experts said at the third edition of the New Age Finance and Accounting Summit (NAFA 2022).

Organised and presented by Khaleej Times, the event brings together finance leaders and experts from across the GCC to discuss the existing professional landscape, deliberate on the role of technology within their domain, and develop strategies for upcoming opportunities and challenges.

Welcoming experts and attendees to the event on Tuesday morning, Poonam Chawla, head of KT Engage and Events & Conferences, noted that the present economy demands chief financial officers (CFOs) to deliver an agile and efficient finance function that focuses on improving the cash flow.

“Finance functions have been forced to swiftly evolve to keep up with the pace of change,” she said. “In fact, finance was already experiencing significant shifts towards digital transformation. The difference now is that this is no longer a choice. While business models are being adapted and rebuilt, the finance function finds itself in a unique position to be at the heart of change across an organisation.”

“CFOs that really do lead digital change initiatives can exhibit massive cost savings through efficiency gains. However, further than that, finance change ought to permit pioneers to play a lead job in enterprise value creation and performance management,” she added.

In his opening keynote, Dinesh Sanghavi, senior executive and regional head of Standard Bank of South Africa, observed how the finance industry today has been greatly influenced and impacted by new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, and the Cloud.

“The key roles in the world of accounting and finance are undergoing a transformation like never before,” he said. “The Covid-19 pandemic certainly helped, however, many of the changes seen in the industry are evolutionary in nature. The Middle East region has additional challenges that we need to navigate through such as low oil prices, the recent introduction of VAT in certain countries, and governments seeking new sources of income.”

“Today, professionals in the industry are constantly reacting and adapting to change and the role of a CFO is no longer defined in the way that it was several years ago,” he added. “The finance and accounting industry needs to ensure that its members have the knowledge and skill to help their respective organisations sustain economic growth and compete domestically and globally.”

Armin Moradi, CEO and co-founder of Qashio, highlighted how businesses today have to be “future-proof” in order to adapt to both challenges and opportunities.

“Covid-19 proved to business leaders the need to future-proof their business and digitise processes in order to improve performance and efficiency,” he said. “Today, where speed of execution and delivery is crucial for all companies, there are still countless amounts of time and money being wasted on the administration and accounting of company spending. The digitisation of cash management is a key topic as lack of visibility has a hidden cost.”

Offering some recent statistics, he said that 67 per cent of decision-makers at large enterprises say that it is challenging or very challenging to collect data on cash flow. In addition, 51 per cent of business leaders say that it is a top priority for them to implement cash management solutions. However, 50 per cent say that they fear a resource drain during such implementation.

Anurag Chaturvedi, chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI Dubai), agreed that the role which a CFO plays today is critical in enabling the growth of business, especially as unicorns across the world are born. “These unicorns, and their growth strategies, decide the founder, the chief technology officer, and the chief financial officers that fuel them.”

Dawesh Bishnoi, chief financial officer at Liwa Trading, also shared his insights on evolving roles in times of uncertainty. “With the age of change that we are seeing, a CFO is all about looking to the future rather than just managing the present; everything that they do right now is about the next three to five years and transformations. Everything has changed over the past 20 years – the way we do business, the technologies that we use, the way we communicate, the way that we get funding, the way we handle money. The Covid-19 scenario was an eye opener for us and forced us all to go online, where the customer had all the choices.”

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