Supporting flexible working
As we emerge into a post-coronavirus world, there are thousands of employees who have experienced the reality of working from home, and now want to spend less time commuting to offices. At the same time, there are many employers who are looking forward to returning to normal, and expecting employees to resume their traditional practices of office-based working.
While some employers are exploring methods for encouraging people to return to the office (including pay cuts to home workers), others are looking for ways to accommodate flexible working. How can your teams be as productive and effective while working from a variety of different settings? How can you give employees the freedom they want, without sacrificing the productivity of your team, the integrity of your work, or the security of your data? And how can your managers support the people they can’t see?
Given the UK’s current labour shortage, employers that can offer more flexible working terms may have first choice of the brightest candidates.
“The employment market has witnessed labour shortage issues within higher-paying sectors such as accounting and finance.”
– Recruitment and Employment Confederation
Growth in demand
After the pandemic recession, companies are eager to bounce back – and the economy is set to come roaring back to life (UK GDP growth is forecast at 7.25% for 2021).
This increased potential (and the need to recoup losses) translates into increases pressure throughout the business: marketing must source more leads, sales must convert more customers, and finance must facilitate this growth while also cutting costs.
Finance teams can expect questions about how they can implement new features, including deferred payments (e.g. Klarna, Sezzle, Laybuy) and accounts payable automation.
Modern software enables a wealth of automation, but few companies are taking full advantage of the possibilities. This means there is still a significant opportunity to save money, improve accuracy, and re-allocate talent towards more meaningful work, using technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive document automation or machine learning.
In the B2B world, there are now end-to-end accounts payable systems that can receive, check, upload, and then pay invoices from suppliers. In finance teams that adopt these solutions, the role of accounts payable becomes more analytical and less procedural, focusing less on data entry and more on data integrity, and also finding ways to do business more efficiently.
Adopting automation technologies may require support from external partners, as well as training for finance colleagues, or the recruitment of finance specialists who are experienced in managing and optimising solutions such as RPA.
The pandemic encouraged even more people to embrace online shopping. While plenty of customers are delighted to return to offline retail, plenty are embracing a new hybrid model, often mixing up online purchases with in-store pickup, or in-store returns.
It’s worth noting that this trend is not purely about traditional retailers moving online; in 2021 there are abundant examples of digital retailers racing to carve out a space on the UK’s high streets, including Amazon, Untuckit and Made.com.
“Digital brands are expected to open another 850 stores by 2023.” – JLL Research
The forces of the pandemic have created new customer expectations, some of which place new demands on finance teams, either to facilitate new kinds of transactions, or to manage the accounting side of these channel-switching purchases and returns. These new customer experiences may require finance teams to invest in new technologies, or train colleagues to manage new applications or features.
Financial services companies know you well.
They have a wealth of data about your spending habits, lifestyle choices, priorities, concerns and challenges. And the most agile financial services companies, and particularly the emerging fintech players, are already using this data to predict your next moves and anticipate your requirements.
Of course, this requires deep capabilities in data analytics, behavioural science and ethnographic research to leverage these datasets, which some industry incumbents are struggling to develop.
While this trend is unlikely to impact the average in-house finance team, it may eventually influence the services and products you receive from banks, insurers and lenders. These changes may also shape the expectations of your suppliers and customers, in terms of how you manage credit, make payments and administer contracts.