Don’t treat it with bitterness. It is the job of the Financial Controller to rise to the challenges presented by a recession, rather than bitterness. Done well, you will emerge leaner and stronger. And you will be ready for a return to strong growth. 

Undoubtedly, many of us will be happy to have 2012 behind us. It was a year fraught with uncertainty as the financial markets continued their downward trend, affecting individuals, companies and governments. There have also been a number of news stories in the last year that have served to knock European investor confidence. Stories from interest rate fixing to poor reconciliation management processes, the Eurozone stalemate to questions over financial audit processes, etcetera, making it a tough year.

–      So what can we as Financial Controllers and CFOs do to make the most of 2013 and its financial dip?

Clear financial leadership

Uncertainty breeds uncertainty, and so in the financial sector too. Since the recession does not look like it is going to dissipate any time soon, Financial Controllers cannot simply “wait it out’. Rather, Financial Controllers should be drafting a list of objectives for the year – from automating reconciliation processes to providing strategic insight to directors – and pursuing these aims with vigour.

–      So why not set out to make 2013 into a year for strong and clear financial leadership?

Hence, it is the job of the Financial Controllers to rise to the challenges presented by a recession, rather than treat it with bitterness. Because it is those that use the recession to improve, that will emerge leaner and stronger and ready for a return to strong growth. And You will probably not find the time later, so now is the time.

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Using your cognitive surplus

Google have implemented what they call “20% time” – a concept of setting aside one day per individual,  each week to work on whatever projects their staff want, as long as they benefit the company. This unstructured time may sound risky, but from “20% time’ Google have realised such projects as Gmail and Adsense and others. This phenomenon is referred to “tapping into the company’s cognitive surplus’. And for those that employ this practice it, it is not risky, but can bring about those business boosting “Hallelujah’ moments.

–      But where can the time be found for ‘cognitive surplus’ strategy in a Financial Department

Automating unnecessary tasks

Part of the problem with implementing “20%’ or “innovation’ time is the pressure to manage a timely account close process each month. With that pressure always looming and the difficulty in gathering all the required payments and invoices, where can the accounts department find the time to innovate?

One way in which you can both reduce error risk and free up time for your accounts department is by automating tedious and time-consuming tasks, like the account reconciliation management process.

Data matching across your accounts in order to reconcile your ledgers is a task better suited to automation. Automatic account reconciliation software can cut your reconciliation time from hours, or even days, to mere minutes and is a lot more accurate than completing by hand. It also frees up your staff’s precious time, allowing them to complete more valuable and challenging tasks.

Find out more about accounts reconciliation automation in our free ebook: ‘Controlling the Transaction Flow’

Get the inside track on making the most out of your finance team, read our blog:Use cognitive surplus in your strategy as financial controller.

–      A Financial Department has a strict load of issues to execute. But allowing yourself and your colleagues to tap into its cognitive surplus, by setting aside only a few hours per month, can definitely be worthwhile. You yourself and your colleagues probably have many solutions to eradicate ineffective and error-prone financial processes. 

What are your key objectives for 2013?

–     Automating the reconciliation management process?

–     Providing better strategic insight?

–     Improving month end close processes?

–     Deploying new technology from the Cloud?

–     Implementing ‘innovation’ time?

Let us know in the comments section below…