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Deloitte China: CFOs urged to take up a bigger role in driving enterprise digital transformation 

Published: 15 December 2022

Deloitte China CFO Program conducted the second issue of 2022 China CFO Survey in September with the theme "CFO leadership in the age of digital intelligence". The respondents are CFOs from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR.

Economic statistics to date show that China’s economy is recovering in 2022 despite the impact of a number of negative factors, with GDP in the third quarter increasing by 3.9% year-on-year. Entering the fourth quarter, the gradual optimization of pandemic prevention and control measures has eased concerns over excessive prevention and control, boosting market expectations for a continued recovery.

Deloitte China CFO Program Leading Partner Norman Sze says, ''Respondents were more cautious about the outlook for China's economy at the time of the survey. However, CFOs still believe China is better positioned than other economies to recover growth, as other major economies are showing signs of a slowdown similar to recessionary levels. Indeed, more than 40% of respondents feel optimistic about China’s economic outlook over the coming year. Recovery from the pandemic has become the major external risk concern for CFOs surveyed. The proportion of respondents concerned about this has surged from 49.0% in the previous survey to 71.9%. The recently announced pandemic prevention and control optimization measures are expected to help ease market concerns in the long-term.''

From an industry perspective, the pandemic and the subsequent economic recovery is the top external risk in all sectors. More than 80% of respondents from the consumer industry, the life sciences and healthcare industry, and the technology, media and telecommunications industry consider post-Covid recovery to be a major concern – an even higher proportion than the overall 71.9%. Supply chain challenges have more impact on the consumer industry, and inflation has a greater impact on the energy, resources and industrial sector. Therefore, respondents in these two industries regard these external risks as the second most worrying, respectively.

The percentage of respondents who consider inability to drive growth to be the most concerning internal risk factor has increased to nearly 60% from under 40% in the previous survey. The second most worrying internal risk factor is cost pressures. In addition, inability to drive growth is a concern for more than 80% of respondents from the consumer industry, the life sciences industry and the medical industry – a high level compared with the overall response.

From the internet to artificial intelligence, digital technology is transforming many aspects of how businesses operate and grow, and digitization is becoming a key pathway to realizing long-term value. As part of this process, the digitization of an enterprise’s finance function plays a major role in building a digitally intelligent enterprise. This CFO Survey assessing enterprises’ progress toward digitization, CFOs’ challenges in driving digitization, and drivers of finance digitization to illustrate the overall development of digitalization.

More than half of the respondents believe that their organizations are making progress in the area of digitization and more than 30% say their organizations have achieved a significant acceleration of progress toward digitization since the year before. In addition, among the respondents, 40.6% rate their company’s level of digitization as on a par with the industry average, and 23.5% consider their company’s level of digitization as above the industry average or leading the industry.The number of enterprises that are embracing transformation in the age of digital intelligence and making substantial progress in this area is growing. However, many believe their digitization journey is still at a preliminary stage. Electronic invoicing is now widely used by finance departments as they make progress toward digitization, although more leading edge technology, such as process mining, data-oriented process analysis, and machine learning, is still being explored.

"As enterprises accelerate the digitization of the finance function, CFOs are encountering some challenges in driving this transformation. Roughly half of respondents view siloed information systems and databases within their organizations as the biggest challenge in driving digitization. At the same time, CFOs are also facing challenges arising from inadequate awareness and a lack of skilled digital talent among employees." Norman Sze adds, "In the face of a new wave of technological and industrial revolution, enterprises need to accelerate accounting digitalization and the expansion of their accounting functions. When it comes to digitization, finance departments need to adopt innovative technology to further automate processes and embrace a new mindset that drives digital transformation across multiple areas – from institutional processes to organization-wide talent and information systems."

To this end, Deloitte suggest enterprises establish integrated systems for their finance functions – comprising business finance, operational finance, and finance expertise – and clearly define these functions. When supported by a sound, integrated system of processes and procedures, organization and talent, and information management, finance departments can be clear about their priorities and focus on implementing digitization.

  1. Operational finance: Orders, procurement, payments and receipts, account closure and consolidation, and other bookkeeping matters. Transformation should focus on achieving a high level of process automation and using multiple technologies to streamline processes and realize automated finance control.

  2. Business finance: Performance management, planning and budgeting, reporting and analysis, and decision-making support. Transformation should focus on generating data-driven business insights that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and on creating a platform with strong analytics capability that provides professional finance advice to inform business decision-making and establishes itself as a partner for internal stakeholders.

  3. Finance expertise: Expertise in tax, funding, professional accounting, external relations, and risk compliance. Transformation should build a forward-looking expert team to provide insights and strategic advice across different areas of finance, which drives internal process and system enhancement to continuously empower other operational and business finance functions.

About the CFO Survey
Since 2011, Deloitte has conducted CFO surveys in different markets, collecting and tracking CFOs’ perspectives on major issues such as the business environment, company strategy, and financial priorities, to provide financial decision-makers with relevant insights. Data collection for the Deloitte China CFO Program's 2022 2nd CFO Survey was completed in September 2022. The respondents were CFOs from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong SAR, and Macau SAR, of which 53.1% work in privately-owned enterprises, 28.1% work in foreign or multinational enterprises, and 15.6% work in state-owned enterprises. The respondents working in companies across a wide range of industries, including energy, resources, and industrials; financial services; technology, media, and telecommunications; consumer; life sciences and healthcare; and government and public services, with annual revenue ranging from less than RMB1 billion to more than RMB40 billion.

(English version)

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