Corporate money managers are evolving into strategic players within the enterprise, but this trend is often cited in reference to C-suite executives, like treasurers and CFOs. A new report from BlackLine says that, while these positions are recognized for the role they play in aiding with enterprise growth, everyday accountants are unsung heroes.
The majority of businesses surveyed by the cloud accounting company across the U.S. agreed that the finance team as a whole can help the greater business growth; a quarter even said that the CFO is the most trusted role when it comes to growing the business.
The value of financial skills and knowledge don’t go unnoticed by companies, either. Nearly half (45 percent) said the most important skill to aiding business growth is an understanding of a company’s future financial needs. “Sound financial practices systems” are the most critical tool to manage corporate growth for 60 percent of professionals, BlackLine found.
“The survey underscores that finance and accounting teams are crucial to future business growth,” said BlackLine CEO Therese Tucker in a statement.
“But,” she added, “many mid-sized and large company decision-makers are not fully leveraging this talent.”
As part of its research, BlackLine also surveyed professionals across the U.K., France and Australia, whose responses are similar to those seen in the U.S., the company said. For example, nearly a third of professionals in the U.K. said business growth is, at least in part, due to the finance and accounting teams.
Two-thirds of professionals in France count financial practices as a top business priority, while Australian respondents also cited this goal as the number one focus for their companies.
Across the U.S., U.K., France and Australia, however, BlackLine found that businesses aren’t making full use of the role of accountants, despite recognizing the potential they hold.
“There appears to be widespread agreement that finance and accounting have the skillsets needed to drive business strategy but are underutilized,” Tucker summarized.
The company pointed to the “Exceptional Accountant,” an accountant that excels at understanding company needs. These professionals, Tucker added, can provide expertise in fraud detection, compliance, data analytics, technology strategy and line-of-business advice. But companies aren’t always able to take advantage of those skillsets, BlackLine concluded.
Manual To Blame
The company attributes companies’ inability to take advantage of all their accountants have to offer to manual processes that force these professionals to spend time on tasks that don’t add value to the organization.
One example of how accountants feel about how they spend their time is the finding that half of finance and accounting teams said their volume of work is “overly taxing.”
While Tucker noted enterprises see the value in these professionals, “to unlock this value, companies need to automate the tedious manual accounting work that consumes so much of accountants’ time and effort.”
Automation can enable accountants to access the real-time data they need to assess company growth and identify potential fraud cases, for instance. It can also accelerate the time it takes accountants to achieve their goals and make strategic decisions for their firms.
“Freed from rote, repetitive numbers-crunching, they are able to hold others accountable for the backup data behind the numbers,” Tucker explained. “Their knowledge and expertise have given them the instincts to quickly discern mistakes and evidence of fraud. And as they embrace automation, they develop the technology skills to implement cloud solutions supporting the organization’s long-term business strategy.”
BlackLine’s survey revealed that CIOs, not CFOs, are most admired by professionals across the U.S., U.K., France and Australia — potentially a sign that executives understand CIOs’ capabilities in technology and automation. But, the company said, CFOs and accountants have the technological know-how necessary.
“Today’s accountants thus are better equipped to become tomorrow’s CEOs,” BlacLine’s Tucker concluded.