Execs Want More From Finance

May 26, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Executives agree the key to getting the most out of their company's finance department is to allow senior managers to make the best business decision, but few firms say their performance in this area is above average.

Nearly seven out of 10 (69%) executives polled by Accenture said the most important finance function in terms of contributing to the overall success of the business was enabling senior management to make the best business decisions.   However, only 37% said that their own finance departments do a good job in this area, compared to 54% that rated their finance department’s performance average and 9% saying it is poor.

Other disconnects were found in what executives expected and the performance they got from their finance departments in the ability to manage risk.   Forty-three percent of those surveyed said that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – rather than the chief risk officer, chief executive officer (CEO) or board of directors – should take the lead in running their organization’s enterprise risk management.   Yet only 19% said their finance departments did a good job of managing risk.

Additionally, while 48% of executives surveyed said that maintaining accurate financial forecasts was one of the most important roles that their finance departments perform, only 21% said that their departments did a good job in this area, with a quarter saying their departments did a poor job in this area.

When asked to identify the three most important attributes of a high-performing finance culture, more than half of the corporate chiefs canvassed selected “a strong capacity for strategic analysis” (55%) and “a clear link to overall company strategy” (53%).   These two qualities were surpassed by only the 59% of respondents that selected “a service-oriented culture.”

To make the best business decisions, 79% of corporate executives looked for “strategic financial thinking” as one of the top three qualities they would seek in a CFO.   By comparison, 36% selected “champion of financial transparency,” 34% chose “zero tolerance toward accounting errors and fraud” and 30% picked “operational experience running parts of the business” as one of the top three qualities in a CFO candidate.  

The Accenture study was based on a global online survey conducted in March 2004 by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of Accenture . The EIU surveyed 182 executives.   Complete survey findings are available at  www.accenture.com/financesolutions .