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Security, analytics and customer service top priorities for CFOs

Security, analytics and customer service have been revealed as the top CFO concerns as leaders focus as much on strategy as operations, according to a new survey from Protiviti.

The recent 2019 Finance Trends Survey revealed that, when asked to rank focus areas, finance leaders picked data security and privacy as their top overall priorities, and their second highest budget priorities.

As new threats such as cybersecurity and data breaches - and opportunities such as the emergence of new talent management models and powerful new technologies - appear, organisations are counting on their CFOs and finance teams to drive behavioural changes needed to execute more, and increasingly strategic, finance priorities while improving their service to internal customers.

With a single breach able to result in the loss of millions of records, severe financial loss, significant operational impact and lead to litigation both from consumers and stakeholders CFOs are increasingly aware that failing to make progress in protecting and levering data assets, whether on-premises or in the cloud, could result in substantial damage.

The data reveals that data security and privacy will remain as a top concerns for the next year, comments Adam Johnston, country leader and managing director.

"As a result, it is crucial for finance executives in Asia to continue to evolve and enhance their relationships with key internal stakeholders, and align themselves as true strategic partners to the business. With changing demands from both internal and external customers, CFOs are having to invest in emerging technologies and capabilities to meet these demands," he explains.

Ways to Reduce Risk Be Educated and Utilise the Cloud

"In a highly interconnected world, there are a number of advanced technologies being leveraged by hackers and security teams alike from artificial intelligence to blockchain," says Johnston.

"Finance leaders need to ensure that they have sufficient understanding of the technical aspects and requirements of appropriate overall security and privacy measures, otherwise this can result in a fear of the unknown and substantial reliance on the effectiveness of all finance, accounting data and activities.

"Today's finance organisations need to understand and be heavily involved in an enterprises overall security measures and data protection strategies, while monitoring data security, privacy and governance related to all finance and accounting data and activities," he says.

"As part of this they should consider mechanisms for monitoring and responding to changing internal customer expectations and demand regarding the financial analyses and insights the finance organisation produces to help their business partners make better more forward-looking decisions.

"It is time for finance leaders to embrace advanced technologies. With more finance organizations migrating from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and related applications to a cloud model," adds Johnston.

Johnston says moving data to the cloud is another way to reduce the risk of data loss even though it may sound counterintuitive to some but in actuality, cloud-based finance organisations view the security and privacy of data, enhanced data analytics, changing demands and expectations of internal customers, and other priorities to be even more significant because they have a clearer understanding of the risk environment and therefore tend to view and report risk issues and vulnerabilities more frequently. Implementing AI, improving how they can leverage and protect data, and investigating blockchain applications and virtual currencies will be key to success for CFOs.

"While some may still think that organisations with their applications on-premises have more control of data and activities, it is not the case. As evidenced by numerous security and data breaches that have occurred the past several years are from organisations with information maintained on-premises," he says.

"However, it is still vital for organisations with their applications in the cloud to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities with regard to access, provider controls, key controls and more."

With data security and privacy likely to remain top concerns for finance leaders in the foreseeable future, Johnston says the proper response is not alarm, but to be informed and collaborate.

"The best data security strategy is understanding the risks while maintaining a constant state of vigilance."