The unprecedented challenges that arose in the post-Covid-19 era have continuously posed questions on the role and responsibilities of audit committees on a global scale. The demanding times such as this has increased the expectations of board audit committees (BACs) from the finance function. The evolving expectations from the finance function paves a way forward for the transformation of the finance function to benefit the board of directors (BODs) inclusive of the BACs.
With the theme set on a future fit finance function to aid better oversight of the BACs, the panellists presented their ideas on different topics related to how a finance function should transform to be future fit. Panellists for the evening were Hatton National Bank PLC Chairperson Aruni Goonetilleke, McDonald’s Operations Finance Head – Asia Business Unit Salinda De Silva, and MAS Holdings Group Director – Finance Operations Nishan Walgampaya. The session was introduced and moderated by KPMG Sri Lanka Partner – Head of Audit and KPMG Audit Committee Forum Leader Suren Rajakarier.
The session commenced with Rajakarier sharing his insights on the transformation of finance function to benefit the BACs. In his introduction, he highlighted some of the key areas of discussion for the session. Some of them were:
HNB PLC Chairperson Aruni Goonetilleke provided the audience with her experience and expectations of the finance function from the financial services sector.
Some of the key takeaways were:
In navigating the current business complexities, the finance function should expand beyond the traditional scope of budgeting, financial review and regulatory reporting to facilitate strategic alignment across the enterprise.
Boards and BAC expect CFOs to look beyond internal factors at external risks and competitive threats and provide input in formulating competitive strategies.
With the increasing focus on digitalisation, finance functions have to play a key role in enabling a data driven culture and utilise modelling and analytical tools to provide real-time insights to the board.
CFOs should also ensure that non-financial performance indicators including socio-economic impacts and environmental footprints are measured, monitored and reported to the board.
The finance function should play the role of a collaborator, working with other functions in designing an optimal business model that generates sustainable returns to all stakeholders.
Boards and BAC should ensure that the company adds new capabilities to the finance function, including data scientists and data analysts.
ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors should be considered in KPIS in order to ensure long-term sustainability of the corporate.
Boards are reluctant to commit to the investment required to drive integrated automation. This has been a key challenge in banks, which typically operate several legacy systems. New investments are directed mainly towards customer-facing processes, while back-end systems remain outdated and not fit for purpose.
To recommend new systems or a transformation process and to obtain approval, it is important to demonstrate the business case for such investments with customer-driven data and research.