Chief financial officers (CFOs) are always looking to refine the processes at their companies, but during times of economic headwinds, they sharpen their pencils just that much more.
Those would be metaphorical pencils because manual methods are out and digitization is in as CFOs push to discover new ways for companies to become more efficient and productive.
During interviews for the PYMNTS series “A Day in the Life of a Digital-First CFO,” four finance chiefs shared their own experiences in implementing new tools and processes to boost productivity, save money and optimize operations.
Saving Dollars on Operations
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This is also a time when companies could benefit from other efforts to digitize, automate and optimize their processes, Vallurupalli said.
For example, on average, manual payments can cost a company $8 or $9 per check. However, moving to a digitized form can reduce that to about $1.75. Taking it a step further, when a company shifts vendor payments to cards with cash back, it can start to generate revenue.
“That’s important in a market where you’re looking to save dollars on operational processes — being able to pay faster — and ultimately you’re saving the company dollars because you’re spending more efficiently and you’re able to pay your vendors with full visibility,” Vallurupalli said.
Using Technology as Much as Possible
At Virta Health, technology has led the way in everything from receivables to payables and treasury to tax — and even on the auditing side, as the industry has moved rapidly from the Excel spreadsheets of old to new, cloud-based, collaborative planning tools, Virta Health CFO Alok Bhushan said in an October interview.
“It makes the whole process really easy — even more so on the approvals and workflow side than on the payments side,” Bhushan said. “I really appreciate the level of control that technology enables, where individual budget owners are able to approve invoices and get the level of authorization needed to make those payments.”
Bhushan is focused on minimizing the headaches from the B2B world’s reliance on outdated, paper-based checks and legacy infrastructures. Virta Health has done a very good job of digitizing its own payments, as the company is 100% digital on that front.
“Like many other businesses at this time, we’re trying to use technology as much as possible to make our billing and payments processes as easy and as frictionless as possible, both for our customers and for the vendors we use,” Bhushan said.
Driving Productivity Across the Organization
After years of disrupting lending and working to reduce the cost of credit, LendingClub has become a bank and uses that same digital mindset and capability to provide traditional banking products, LendingClub CFO Tom Casey said in a December interview.
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“As a CFO, my job is to drive as much productivity across the organization and the mindset of not just the finance team but really the whole company on how we systematically use technology to drive our efficiencies and really excite customers with new products and services,” Casey said.
Because everything LendingClub does is digital, its infrastructure is electronic and seamless. For example, when a customer applies to get a personal loan, the company processes it automatically, about 80% of the time, with no human intervention. If consumers do need help, the company has the data to provide them with a choice of programs.
“Using that kind of digital-first frame, quick decision-making, and driving efficiencies allows us to make compelling offers to our members — and that’s what makes them keep coming back,” Casey said.
Freeing Knowledge Workers From Repetitive Tasks
Intelligent process automation exists and is seeing increasing demand because it offers businesses a way to handle repetitive tasks — such as keying data into spreadsheets — so employees don’t have to, Bizagi CFO Paul Argiry said in a December interview.
“That frees up your knowledge workers because they’re an expensive resource,” Argiry said. “For most companies, 50% or 60% of your cost is human beings, your employees, and then with the war on talent and inflation, those costs keep going up and up. So, how do you make them more efficient so they’re focusing on what they’re really meant to do versus those routine tasks? That’s really the benefit.”
Argiry added that as a CFO, he always has his pencil out, ready to go line by line looking for potential cost savings. At the same time, he looks for operational improvements that can be made. For example, he once was involved in studying various service tickets that had come in for support in order to find out what was causing that need among customers.
“As CFOs, we have the opportunity to look across our organizations,” Argiry said. “Don’t just be focused only on the financial metrics, but also on the operational ones.”