- Just over half (52%) of finance leaders believe decentralized currencies will prove ‘extremely’ viable as a long-term payment solution
- A third (33%) plan to accept digital currencies within the next 12 months
- Over one-third (36%) of finance teams say their company has already entered the metaverse, while half (52%) say they plan to increase their presence
- A third (32%) of finance teams now looking for candidates with coding, developer, AI experience
- Three-quarters of financial decision makers put purpose over profits
A new study by Sage, the leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has found that over four-fifths (83%) of finance leaders believe the industry needs a new breed of CFO.
“The Redefined CFO” study investigates how finance leaders today take a more holistic approach with a reliance on data to engage with the wider strategic priorities of organizations. Stepping out from the shadow of the CEO, the CFO has become a hub of business information – diversifying their expertise, recruiting the right talent, and ensuring they implement emerging technologies and purpose-driven programs to remove friction and deliver insights. The Chief Facilitative, Fairness and Future Officers represent this new breed of CFO.
“Within our organization, my role extends beyond the finance function,” said Sudesh Galhenage, Chief Financial Officer, Hope’s Home. “My efforts help drive our operational excellence and IT strategy, particularly as we embrace remote and hybrid work. I guide the organization in making important decisions that will help us succeed into the future – from investing in the right technology for our needs to attracting and retaining the best talent.”
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Cryptocurrency and the metaverse embraced by SMBs
The research found that finance officers within SMBs are increasingly embracing cryptocurrencies and the metaverse as digital payments technology forces an evolution.
While only 17% of global finance teams reported currently accepting cryptocurrency transactions, one-third (33%) plan to accept decentralized currencies within the next 12 months. Just over half (52%) believe these currencies will prove ‘extremely’ viable as a long-term payment solution. The biggest hurdles surrounding adoption of cryptocurrencies were internal ESG policies (22%) and finding the right talent to manage it (22%).
The research revealed that over two-fifths (44%) of finance leaders have used cryptocurrency as payment for personal transactions, whilst nearly half (48%) have personally invested in cryptocurrency. Another half (49%) plan to invest in it.
When it came to the metaverse, SMBs may be further ahead in embracing the new technology than many anticipate. Over one-third (36%) of finance teams say their company has already entered the metaverse, while half (52%) say they plan to increase their presence over the coming year. Over half (54%) of respondents are planning learning programs in the metaverse, and almost half (42%) are purchasing virtual real estate (via NFTs).
SMBs are accessing new capabilities all the time, supported by AI, machine learning and blockchain, to better manage their finances, and run their businesses more effectively.
Finance leaders in the US were the most bullish: almost half (46%) of US SMBs have already entered the metaverse, compared with only 30% of UK and 32% of Canadian businesses.
US finance teams were amongst the most likely to already be accepting cryptocurrency transactions, with a fifth (21%) already accepting these payments. The US trails only Australia – where 29% of businesses already accept decentralized payments. These figures were substantially higher than those seen in the UK (13%) and Canada (12%) which are lagging behind.
In terms of the long-term viability of cryptocurrency as a SMB payment source, 60% of US finance teams believe it to be extremely viable. This compares with 44% of UK and half (49%) of Canadian finance executives.
“I’m passionate about elevating the work of humans. By this, I mean letting the machines take the admin burden, spot anomalies, and automate repetitive tasks – freeing up humans to focus on what they do best,” said Aaron Harris, Chief Technology Officer, Sage. “The metaverse is a great example of the convergence of our digital and physical lives – integrating human touchpoints through digital means to knock down barriers. And while it’s still early days for most, the metaverse is normalizing some emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies for SMBs which in turn, removes friction and delivers insights.”
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Purpose and people ahead of profit
Finance teams are now prioritizing technology skills over financial experience in recruitment, and it’s impacting the hunt for new skills. One-third (32%) of finance teams say they are now looking for candidates with either coding, developer, or AI algorithmic building experience. In fact, candidates with a strong AI experience were even more appealing than strong finance candidates willing to train and develop AI skills (38% compared to 34%, respectively). However, both are more attractive candidates than professionals without any technical skillset at all.
Organizations are also prioritizing people and empathy in business decisions. Just over three-quarters of financial decision makers are encouraged by their organization to prioritize people (77%), account for empathy and understanding when making business decisions (75%) and put purpose over profits (74%).
“Yet despite the appetite for new technologies and business models, the availability of skills remains an industry-wide issue that, as a community, we need to solve. Offering more than the traditional finance roles, I hope this will help our profession appeal to an increasingly wider demographic,” concluded Harris.