18 October 2021, LONDON – Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) across the UK and Ireland have no clear plan as to where they should be focusing financial investment for 2022, according to research conducted by Zellis, the payroll and HR specialist. Despite overwhelming consensus that addressing business continuity risk has become a much more pressing concern, CFOs are divided as to where to build post-pandemic resilience.

The research, carried out this summer among the CFOs of 125 organisations with over 1000 employees, shows that 99% agree business continuity risks in back- office processes have become a bigger issue since February 2021, with 1 in 5 (20%) agreeing ‘completely.’ Similarly, 99% suggested that a ‘more robust approach’ to mitigating business continuity risks was important for their business in the next 12 months.

However, opinions were divided among CFOs on what was needed to support that resilience. Nearly half (49%) said ‘reviewing supplier relationships’ and pursing ‘operational efficiency’ (43%) had required more personal attention from them since the outset of the pandemic. As a return to normality became clearer over the summer of 2021, a focus on investing in increasing digitisation (26%) and improving remote working options (25%) were the areas CFOs were most keen to address, followed by talent management (18%), cost control (17%) and automation (14%).

“Whilst the past 18 months have been about keeping the business above water during the pandemic, the coming year will be about how to rebuild and improve operations,” said Alan Kinch, CFO Zellis. “The problem facing CFOs is that, after a year of exceptional constraints, there are now so many areas of the business which need urgent attention.  The boardroom is turning to their CFO and asking: which area should we focus on first?”

The Resilience Factor

While nearly every CFO surveyed (99%) recognised the significance of business continuity risk planning, only 50% of all participants had updated their approach in the last 12 months. 25% were only still developing new mitigation strategies, while a further 25% had not made any changes at all.

CFOs who had adapted their strategies during the past 18 months were more likely to suggest addressing regulatory compliance (42%) and reducing inefficiency (30%) as their priorities for the months ahead. They were also notably more likely to consider analytics and the need to upgrade their technology as priorities than counterparts which had made few or no changes.

This opens a significant advantage where businesses are looking to avoid disruption emerging from staff changes, or talent shortages. Zellis’ previous study, conducted early in the pandemic in 2020 showed that nearly half (44%) of businesses were unsure of their ability to function if key staff members were to become incapacitated due to COVID-19. 27% of CFOs interviewed this year admitted that they would push for more automation across operations for this very reason.

“Finding the right area to focus on during a time where everything can change at the drop of a hat is no easy task,” concluded Alan Kinch. “CFOs are now facing all sorts of new pressures, not only from the boardroom but also from investors and customers. This means that, as well as looking after the finances of an organisation, they are also now firmly in the ‘hot seat’ for having the right tools and plans in place to eliminate risk.

“Seeking out a resilience-based approach often means improving access to the information, reporting and functionality necessary to withstand significant change; the quicker CFOs can get a handle on this, the sooner they will see the benefits across their entire organisation.”

The full report can be accessed here.

About Zellis  

Zellis is the largest provider of payroll and HR software, and Managed Services, to UK and Ireland-based companies with over 1,000 employees. With over 50 years’ experience and over 2,500 employees, we count a third of the FTSE 100 as customers and pay over five million employees a year.  

We are also the people behind ResourceLink, now part of Zellis HCM Cloud, which won the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professional’s (CIPP) Payroll Software of the Year Award for 2020 and 2021.