Vaccine provides cautious optimism among FDs

By Aoife Morgan | 18 November 2020

A vaccine to the coronavirus will not bring much change in consumer confidence in the next quarter, according to a panel of finance directors at  this year’s CFO Virtual Agenda.

“At the moment, we are working on a scenario that the first half of next year most closely looks like the second half of this year,” said Will Thompson, UK finance director of The Engine Group.

“It will probably be a while before it feeds through and really starts to drive changes in consumer demand and client behaviours.”

The news of a possible vaccine was first announced last week and saw company share prices rocketing in multiple industries.

Luke Bailey, finance director at TUI Musement, warned not to get distracted with the news.

“Let’s see those key performance indicators achieved before we take any meaningful action around investment, opportunities and how we capitalise.

“For us, it’s making sure we are sticking to our core plan both from a managing through the pandemic point of view and positioning ourselves for the new possible, let’s just have that as a really positive indicator that our primary scenario is the one that will evolve.”

He pointed out that finance function is becoming more reliant on technology.

“I think we will need to look at what have we done historically as a finance function and are there ways with technology that we can do in order to move ourselves forward and start to automate some of those processes that will be automated in the future.

“We absolutely need people alongside technology and the processes to really take the finance function forward.”

Thomas Sutter, Finance Centre of Excellence at Oracle NetSuite, agreed with the automation of financial processes.

“I think accountants in in-house finance teams are going to need less of the education on traditional accounting because you can always get that expertise from a third-party accounting firm.

“It’s looking at how to use the technology and processes that are in place. They will become more of an auditor, analysing all of the data that was automated and correcting any errors.”

Those on the panel also commented on how they were preparing for Brexit, with the UK set to leave the EU early next year.
“In a way, the pandemic is going to have a much bigger impact on clients and our consumers than Brexit is at this stage,” said Thompson.

“It’s really about how do you keep a bit of a flexibility and a bit of cushion in your medium-term planning to allow for the disruption that looks like it’s coming in January and how that will feed through to consumers and clients.”

Bailey said visibility and data-led approaches are imperative.

“For me, it’s about visibility and knowing as many of the risks and opportunities that Brexit brings. It’s about taking a data-led approach of how you are managing and litigating those risks and what are the right conversations to have”

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