January 26, 2021

UK Finance & Accounting Professionals Have a Crisis of Confidence

UK Finance & Accounting Professionals Have a Crisis of Confidence Image | BlackLine Magazine

recent study completed by Capstone Insights uncovered a confidence crisis simmering among United Kingdom Finance and Accounting professionals. The global survey asked respondents about their dependence on spreadsheets, frequency of errors, the use of AI, machine learning, and robotic process automation, as well as ranking overall satisfaction with their current systems.

In general, UK respondents demonstrated a lower degree of confidence in their current systems and processes and in their organisation’s preparedness for future challenges.

Why the Insecurity in UK F&A Teams?

Our first assumption was that the British penchant for understatement may have driven the rankings down a bit, but upon closer examination, one can see there are multiple issues at play.

Namely, there’s a very real possibility that the multi-national firms headquartered in the United Kingdom bring with them additional complexity—higher standards for reporting, multiple currencies, and globally distributed teams—all factors that introduce the potential for headaches and late nights. 

An employee at a global finance firm would likely be very aware of the advanced tools that should be available to them, and more likely to express dissatisfaction with current systems if they are lacking.

The global survey identified reliance on manual processes as a potential driver for insecurity within the industry, and this tracks for the UK as 63% of respondents also reported extensive use of spreadsheets in their monthly close process.

Dependence on manual processes introduces room for error, duplication of labour, and inefficiency, but upper management is, sadly, somewhat disconnected from the impact it has on their employees.

For instance, 80% of SVP+ respondents called their systems easy to use, but only 50% of managers and team leaders said the same. And in a similar vein, 75% of SVP+ respondents thought their systems were ready for more complexity, but only 47% of managers and team leads agreed.

This apparent disconnect in experience indicates that leadership is far too insulated from the effort often required for employees to complete the close, reconcile the accounts, or compile the reports executives use to guide their decision making.

Manual processes undermine confidence and introduce the possibility of errors, and they may exist within organisations whose leaders are none the wiser. The employees are often victims of their own success—their hard work and late nights make the process look seamless, when nothing could be further from the truth.

What Can Be Done to Ease the Anxiety?  

The process elements that cause your employees anxiety are also the places where things are most likely to break at the worst possible moment, so rooting out those trouble spots is key.

A good first measure is for senior management to elicit feedback from individual contributors, accountants, and front-line managers to find out what difficulties they encounter on a regular basis. Asking about small, everyday annoyances, any workarounds they would like to stop using, and existing process breakdowns will uncover the most valuable feedback.

Building out a strategy for automation is also critical. As deep learning algorithms and machine reasoning become commonplace in F&A, organisations mired in spreadsheets and other manual processes will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Instead of providing forward-looking insights and setting strategy, they will fall behind. The Modern Accounting Playbook provides best practices for determining your automation strategy, as well as for recruiting advocates from within your organisation for this critical work.  

Read the regional Capstone Insights Report to discover where UK-based organisations are reporting the largest gaps in F&A performance and the strategies you need to improve organisational effectiveness, transparency, and collaboration.

David Brightman
Director of Product Marketing

Future of Work