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American Express: Data and Digital Capabilities Key to Improving Finance Function

March 29, 2023

American Express: Data and Digital Capabilities Key to Improving Finance Function

Over half of UK finance leaders (55 per cent) expect to increase their team’s headcount in the near future, but the skills and capabilities they are seeking are changing, in line with a growing desire to improve the finance function’s efficiency and performance; found American Express in its latest research.

American Express surveyed senior finance decision-makers at larger UK businesses, discovering a general focus on improving their finance team’s data and digital capabilities. More than half (56 per cent) said these skill sets will become more important in the next two to five years. One-third (33 per cent) also explained that better digital skills are the key to improving the running of the finance function.

Three-quarters (74 per cent) of UK finance leaders suggested that it is getting harder to find and recruit the right talent, hinting at potential future resourcing challenges.

Regarding improving the finance function’s performance, the American Express survey found that 85 per cent of respondents believe more accurate forecasting is critical to success. Meanwhile, 38 per cent cited this as the activity which takes up most of their time and resource.

‘Reporting and control’ was the second most time-consuming activity (36 per cent), followed by strategic planning and financial analysis (34 per cent). Taking these factors into consideration, 83 per cent of respondents also said access to better quality data was vital to bolstering their finance function’s organisational impact.

Confidence in resilience

Despite these challenges and against the backdrop of a challenging economy, finance leaders are still upbeat about their performance and resilience, with an overwhelming majority (88 per cent) feeling confident their team can respond well to unexpected events.

Stacey Sterbenz, general manager of UK commercial at American Express, explained what business could take from the findings. Sterbenz said: “With calls from finance leaders for greater digital and analytical skills to interpret and act on organisational data, it’s clear that the finance function is evolving in response to new challenges.

“As a result, the importance of having the right business partners in place has never been greater; those who can make sense of complex data and how it relates to a changing and complex external landscape will be better positioned for ongoing success.”

American Express commissioned Opinium Research to survey 250 senior decision-makers from companies with over 250 employees. American Express conducted all research between 16 December 2022 and 4 January 2023.

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