Singaporean companies are powering ahead with their plans to digitize their finance and accounting functions according to a new survey by recruitment firm Robert Half.
The survey of 2,425 CFOs and Finance Directors from 16 countries, including 150 from Singapore, found that 98 per cent of Singapore companies were investing a greater proportion of their budget towards the digitization of their finance functions.
The main reasons cited for this digitization effort are to detect and prevent fraud (63 per cent) and to improve data analytics (60 per cent).
This makes Singapore CFOs the most fraud-conscious in the world. The country with the next largest emphasis on fraud is China where 56 per cent of CFOs are utilizing the benefits of digitization to improve their ability to detect fraudulent acts. This is far greater than the fraud prevention focus globally, which accounts for just 40 per cent of companies.
Ms Stella Tang, Director of Robert Half Singapore did state, however, that the focus on fraud among Singapore firms did not mean fraud was an issue in Singapore.
“Singapore has a global reputation for integrity and honest conduct within its business community. This survey shows Singapore CFOs are extremely vigilant when it comes to detecting fraud. That’s why the level of fraud in Singapore is low compared to other countries. Preventing fraud is simply a higher priority for Singapore CFOs than for finance leaders elsewhere.”
“Singapore has an ambition to be a global hub for data analytics, which explains why six out of every 10 firms surveyed are making this the focus of their digitization efforts.”
Table 1: Thinking about the digitization of the finance department, what areas or initiatives do you plan to invest in?
Singapore CFOs less confident of their digital success
When asked how confident they were that their digital strategies would be a success in five years, 74 per cent of Singapore CFOs said they were very or somewhat confident.
This is the fourth lowest level of confidence among the 16 countries surveyed, just ahead of Belgium (61 per cent), The Netherlands (67 per cent) and France (71 per cent).
It also means Singapore CFOs are the least confident in Asia of the success of their digitization efforts (Asia’s average is 79 per cent).
When asked what the biggest obstacles are to their digitization efforts, the most common response was the organisational or the operating model of their company, nominated by 45 per cent of CFOs. This type of organisational inflexibility is particularly prevalent among medium sized firms with between 250 and 500 employees.
Ms Tang said: “It is internal barriers such as the way companies are organised that is causing the most problems for CFOs who want to digitize their finance activities.”
“To break through these barriers, there is a huge opportunity for CFOs to be a champion for advancing the digital agenda and get the rest of their management team on board, especially the CEO,” Ms Tang said.