2021 Finance and treasury technology and resources: Key success drivers amid ongoing pandemic uncertainties and post-election realities.
CFO Joel Campbell leads MSTS’ financial and treasury operations, financial controls, statutory accounting, financial planning and analysis, and process improvement initiatives for the company’s 24 entities. We recently asked Campbell to look back on notable 2020 trends; here, we’ve asked him to look ahead to 2021 by highlighting finance and treasury developments that bear monitoring. Campbell identified four areas.
1. Pandemic and Political Risk on Capital Markets
Campbell points to potential COVID-19 flare-ups and the outcome of November’s elections as two high-level risks that will warrant attention in 2021. New coronavirus infections that trigger widespread shutdown measures could agitate debt capital markets and rekindle liquidity concerns that plagued companies in March and April. Regardless of how the federal elections play out, Campbell says that the outcome will have broad implications on tax policy, healthcare policy, government spending and business regulations over the long term. “The changes could be significant across numerous areas,” he notes, “and things could happen quickly, starting at the end of January and continuing throughout the first quarter. We should understand that these changes could be deep and swift.”
2. Digital Finance Transformation
Finance and treasury technology feature prominently among the many difficult business lessons doled out during the pandemic this year. Companies with advanced, cloud-based ERP systems, treasury management systems and related finance and accounting applications managed the shift to remote offices more effectively and efficiently than less digitally advanced organizations. “In order to manage liquidity when the next crisis materializes, companies need to have robust treasury technology in place and operational today,” says Campbell, who also mentions the value that advanced technologies offer in driving business agility and crisis management effectiveness. “Organizations are just starting to scratch the surface of what advanced technologies can do,” he notes. “This year we saw more companies use robotic process automation (RPA) to handle smaller, routine tasks in ways that delivered huge benefits to process and systems efficiency and to employee experience.”
3. Create and Expand Personal Balance Sheets
As remote working requirements remain in force and/or become permanent in many companies next year, traditional training and development approaches will need rethinking. Campbell encourages his team to maintain a personal balance sheet of skills and expertise. “That balance sheet should expand even when you’re working at home,” he notes. “In finance and treasury, that means honing core skills in cash management, financial planning and analysis, and external reporting. It also means understanding the new offerings that the banks are bringing to the table, like same-day ACH.”
4. Financial Leadership: Clarify the Big Picture
Campbell encourages leaders to ensure that their vision crosses the virtual divide in 2021. “People can lose sight of the big picture when they’re working from home and distractions arise,” he explains. “Sometimes, we’re looking at our computer screens with one eye on our pets, our family members, the lawn service or a troubling news report. It’s important to make sure your people feel connected to the purpose of the organization. They should know where the company is headed and understand the role they play in that journey. That context goes a long way toward helping people remain engaged and wanting to be part of a team that’s moving forward.”