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Finance function increases prominence in measuring organisational performance

The finance function will increasingly become a pivotal partner in driving forward-looking data insights to evaluate an organisation’s performance against its purpose, according to a joint report by PwC and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). 

Over 70% of the respondents surveyed in the report argued that the mainstream use of finance insights to evaluate an organisation’s performance against its purpose would be achieved in the next three to five years, highlighting a significant shift in the finance community’s contribution to the organisation.

Integrated reporting and the six capitals

The report, Finance Insights - Reimagined, explores the role of “finance business partners” - individuals, or a group of individuals, that act as the conduit between the finance function and its internal and external stakeholders - in helping to track data that is essential to strategic operational decisions and in understanding where value is being created across the organisation.  

Integrated reporting is a key area where finance business partners can make this contribution, utilising the framework of six capitals to measure an organisation’s performance against its purpose. The PwC/ACCA report defines the six capitals as follows 

Financial capital

The funds available to an organisation to produce goods or provide services. These funds are sourced through debt, equity or grants, or generated through operations and investments.

Manufactured capital

Manufactured physical objects available to an organisation to produce goods, or provide services, including buildings, equipment, infrastructure (such as roads, bridges, water-and waste-treatment plants).

Intellectual capital

Knowledge-based intangibles, including intellectual property, such as patents, copyrights and software, rights and licences; ‘organisational capital’ such as systems and protocols; and ‘tacit knowledge’ (knowledge of the business that is held by employees and managers but that is difficult to communicate).

Human capital

People’s skills, abilities, experience, motivation, intelligence, health and productivity. It includes their support for an organisational governance framework, risk management approach and values; their understanding of an organisation’s strategy and the ability to implement it; and their loyalty and ability to lead and collaborate.

Social and responsible capital

This category includes institutions and relationships within and between communities, stakeholder groups and other networks; shared norms, common values, and behaviour; trust the organisation has fostered, brand and reputation; and an organisation’s ‘social licence to operate’.

Natural capital

All renewable and non-renewable environmental resources and processes that provide goods and services that support the organisation’s past, present and future prosperity, including air, water, minerals, forests, biodiversity and ecosystem health.

“Historically, we've been very focused on the financial value added," said Brian Furness, Global Consulting Finance Leader, Partner at PwC UK. "I think what we're going to see, what we are seeing, and we will see more of is a balance around the six capitals.”

Expanding beyond finance

Respondents indicated that finance business partners would be taking on a much larger role in evaluating performance across all six capitals in the next three to five years, particularly in non-financial areas:

  • Over 60% believe that the finance function will be fundamental in evaluating intellectual capital, while over 40% view it as fundamental to evaluating human capital and social & responsible capital.
  • 62% said that finance will be either fully or partially involved in evaluating natural capital performance.

However, in order for the finance function to lead with these added insights, it will need to evolve beyond its current skill set to incorporate a range of technical and soft skills, as well as business acumen driven by a new world view to assess operating model performance.

Currently, 55% of the respondents claimed that finance business partnering was a proactive role in their organisations, but only 37% reported that it was truly embedded in the organisation as a fundamental part of decision-making and strategy. The two most valued aspects in the role according to the respondents -  business strategy development and the analysis of current performance - suggest that finance professionals might not yet be achieving the forward-looking view on which the future of the finance function may depend. 

Yet, over 78% of the respondents see the role of finance business partners increasing and most of them believe it will increase significantly in the next three to five years. Oversight and guardianship of data integrity and standards, for instance, will be an important responsibility that respondents see as part of the development of the role.

With the broader measurement and evaluation of organisational purpose becoming increasingly fundamental to business transparency and performance, the finance function has the opportunity to use its capabilities to drive long-term value for the organisation.

Methodology

The insights in the joint report are based on interviews and roundtables conducted with ACCA members and other interested parties and the results of a survey of 3,502 accountancy and finance professionals, including ACCA members and future members, contacts and clients of PwC, and members of the Shared Service Forum based in India, which was conducted in February 2020.

Countries represented in the data insights from the report include the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Australia.

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