Finance Leaders’ Summit: Digital Transformation Reinventing the Role of Finance

The days of finance merely acting as a cost-saving function are well behind us. Next-level Finance transformation takes on board the digital transformation journey, whilst also forging ahead into newer areas, such as development strategies, analytics and new technologies. 500 attendees and speakers gathered around these topics on Thursday the 8th of March, during Finance Leaders’ Summit. UpSlide was one of the innovative start-ups and FinTechs taking part of the “FinTech Show” corner, along with our colleagues from Finance 3.1, Easy Shares, Dream Quark or Dunforce. We reviewed the best moments of the day.

The Digital Transformation imperative

The Finance Leaders’ Summit showed up hundreds of Finance professionals like Natixis, AccorHotels, Warner Bros France, Microsoft France, Nespresso, Orange or Zuora. Financing revolutions – equity servicing growth, debt, working capital and alternative financings – and Information Systems for CFOs – Artificial Intelligence, Business Intelligence and other Big Bangs – were the main topics tackled during the several conferences organised.

Today, new technologies are an opportunity for companies, but also a necessity. Finance leaders who are unable or unwilling to take the digital turn will ultimately risk failing to become truly valued strategic business partners. “The financial performance lies in the ability to connect strategy and operations“, says Eric Bosmans, Group Finance Director for Digital and Transformation at Kingfisher plc.

Indeed, the Finance function must take up the digital challenge. This stake has been identified as critical for the CFO in the “New challenges of the finance department” conference. “Accountants will need to become Data Scientists: for them, it will mean drop the low-value tasks and focus on their expertise”, predicts Estelle Leroy-Savignac, CFO at French company Michel et Augustin. For her, digitisation does not mean more tools; on the contrary, she plans on reducing the number of tools, but enhancing their core features.

“Digital transformation and predictive technologies are two of the main challenges of the Finance function. It will breathe new life into the role of CFO!” – Samuel Guillon, CFO at Colas Group

Among the digital best practices evoked, Eric Bosmans decided to completely stop printing paper to become “100% digital“. A habit he took from Kingfisher’s innovation hub, the first step of the company’s digitisation. Gilles Bogaert, CFO of Pernod Ricard, mentioned the use of a Power BI dashboard to monitor its KPIs rather than the commonly used Excel file. Jean-Michel Cecconi, CFO of Nespresso France, perfectly sums it up: “Thanks to digital tools, we can now do our real job.

For Jean-Thomas Schmitt, CEO of Heppner, it also means the CFO is becoming the guardian of the company’s data: “The CFO is a data expert. His skills allow him to react in real-time conditions. He switched from accounting officer to data leader.”

“The CFO has to maximise the use of new technologies to eliminate low value tasks”, insists Estelle Leroy-Savignac.

Embrace the new generation’s mindset

Developing the people around you to successfully harness these vast opportunities and to relay your findings to your business are essential to upskill and energise the Finance teams. This priority has been identified as mandatory to support the CFO in his “eminently strategic role”, according to Jean-Thomas Schmitt.

People have to share common goals and find meaning in what they do to bring a company to success”, sets Xavier Vignon, CEO of Sogetrel. Giving purpose and “fun”, to quote Laurent Haynez, CEO of LeDuff, is indispensable to attract digital-savvy talents.

For Estelle Leroy-Savignac, “Millenials are seeking for continuous professional training. We can provide them with that; it is a win-win situation. However, their overriding motive is the company’s vision. It is a moral partnership rather than a financial contract.”

This topic was at the core of the closure’s conference. Eric Bosmans and Gilles Bogaert evoked the best practices Kingfisher plc and Pernod Ricard implemented to ensure the integration of the new generation’s soft skills amongst the expertise of the X generation. Without falling into a “digital shadow Comex”, the leading team at Kingfisher has already adopted more agile ways of working, inspired by their younger team members – for example, flex offices for everybody, including the Comex. At Pernod Ricard, reverse mentoring has become a usual practice – a proof, if needed, that benefits go both ways when X and Y generations are working together.

Capitalmind and Natixis, top winners of the 2018 Trophies

The day ends with a gala dinner and the Finance Leaders’ Award Ceremony. The best Finance Directions, corporate and investment banks and professional advice companies are rewarded. “Candidates have been preselected and the honourees are designated according to their 2017 realisations, long-term realisation, their creativity and innovation”, explains Natacha Ondet, Project Manager at Décideurs Magazine and member of the event organisation.

Two of our customers, Capitalmind and Natixis, won particular recognition. Capitalmind won the “Merchant Bank: best growth dynamic” award, as well as two awards for its mergers and acquisitions activities. Natixis Partners was rewarded for its M&A high-tech & healthcare activities and its transaction services specialisation of investment funds. Natixis was also named “Best Finance Department” for the insurance/asset management sector.

We hoped we helped them achieve their goals and we are very proud to count them as customers.

We can’t wait for the 2019 edition!

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