Md. Sajid Khan, Head of International Development, ACCA India
With the ongoing spread of coronavirus yet to flatten its curve, social distancing is the only option that seems to be the respite. As a result, many businesses globally are rapidly employing a business model comprising far more remote workers than they had ever expected. While the economy is reeling from the pandemic, accountants find themselves in an exceptional position to help build a new normal for both themselves and their clients, while keeping cybersecurity in mind.
Accountants are helping businesses
Accountants are not only helping their clients, but also their own businesses to stay sustainable. They are learning to help their clients minimize loss and accelerate financial recovery to stay economically afloat. The COVID-19 crisis created urgent needs like cash flow forecasting, financing option review, and helping businesses go online. The finance profession has been forced to transition into a virtual world that is dependent on higher technical capabilities. Espousing technology will change the ecosystem around how both firms and their clients function. Work-from-home has made many financial firms search flexible and remote work, and accountants are clamouring to adapt and adopt new ways of working and new tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Changing role of CFOs
In the current environment where organizations are still trying to find possible business solutions to emerge out of the situation, business leaders are also forced to determine best practices for remote working which has now become the new normal.
Amidst all the added dynamics within organization and in the business environment, the CFO and his/her team of finance professionals must drastically adapt to the change in their roles that the situation has brought in.
Within the given situation a CFO needs to play a tough, central role, together with his team, in stabilising the business and positioning it to flourish when conditions improve. Since they are the leaders of the company who directly back the organisation’s financial health, CFOs must be agile to put their companies on a sound financial equilibrium and diminish fear and uncertainty.
A CFO and his finance team need to act as custodians of the business at large and not just focus on their department. Finance professionals need to be aware and vigil on cybersecurity as well, especially now, when working remotely. They need to ensure that sufficient steps are taken to uphold and protect the company’s reputation, business and information, especially now while working remotely.
Use of technology
The current COVID-19 scenario has put forward many questions about the finance professionals’ preparedness on IT capabilities. Given remote work environment finance professionals to a great extent are dependent on cloud computing and cloud compliance for accessibility and security. Hence cloud accounting is not the future but is the present and has created need for accountants to switch from conventional methods to SaaS-based cloud solutions.
Accountants are widely using online collaborative platforms to allot work within team members and consultants. They are also opting for software that provides them access to company records needed for various compliance necessities with the right amount of integral security features. As cloud accounting software offers inimitable role-based access control, it reduces the fear of data leak or privacy breach. In addition, the AI-aided smart business tools streamline compliance.
Remote working and cybersecurity
As more people are working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are also falling easy prey to cyberattacks. There has already been a steady spike in the number of phishing scams linked to coronavirus, targeting both consumers and organisations – especially the finance and accounting professional. Cyber attackers are becoming more structured and erudite. The threats are getting more dangerous by the day and posing more risks to an organisation’s reputation.
With the finance department working remotely, new skills related to cybersecurity need to be developed. The CFO needs to ensure that his team is aware and understands the increased need for securing their systems and raise an alarm time if they feel there is a likely breach. Accountants need to take strong measures to make sure their financial and personal information remains confidential.
With numerous devices being used, it is possible that, at any rate, a few might squander the security fissures. The best way out of it using VPN networks and other security networks to keep their confidential information safe. The accountants need to be proactive in understanding these loopholes and the impact of a cyberattack on the financial standing of the organisation and should take care of its security.
Even in the remote working situation, accountants need to be pre-emptive in client communication and be the designers of significant and swift action to protect their clients and their own businesses. They need to have the tools to help clients swivel to new opportunities and to help them endure short-term business challenges.
Considering finance professionals are the constant factor in businesses across sectors, they need to understand the changing needs of the business environment. Like it is said, ‘New challenges bring in new opportunities’ likewise finance professionals need to adapt to themselves to the changes to stay relevant and add value to their firm and clients’ businesses.