Chief financial officers at insurers and banks are increasingly important to their companies’ digital transformation, according to a pair of new research studies from Accenture.

The studies, one for insurance and one for banking, found that the CFOs mattered, in part, because they manage the money. CFOs are assuming greater influence in decisions about technology investments, Accenture said, and they are also leveraging new data and analytics technologies for their companies’ digitization efforts.

“Banking and insurance CFOs are at the center of the organization, working alongside the CEO, acting as the economic guardian to ensure that the digital transformation strategy is effective across the entire enterprise,” Steve Culp, a senior managing director at Accenture and global head of the company’s Finance & Risk practice, said in prepared remarks. “By leveraging predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to better interpret data for key business decisions, CFOs can drive value, improve efficiency and enable strategy beyond the borders of the finance function.”

The research is based on a global cross-industry survey of CFOs and qualitative interviews with more than 700 CFO and senior finance executives, according to Accenture. This included 97 in insurance and 146 in banking. All interviewees worked for global, billion-dollar enterprises representing a mix of sectors and geographies. The online survey was conducted between December 2017 and April 2018.

What the survey found:

  • CFOs are playing a crucial role in digital investments.Three-quarters of the financial services CFOs surveyed are leading efforts to improve efficiency through the adoption of digital technologies and exploring how disruptive new technologies could benefit their organization. The takeaway: CFOs are emerging as drivers of a company’s digital agenda.
  • Finance is taking a lead role in data and analytics. According to the research, CFOs’ biggest potential strength is the ability to harness data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of not just the finance function but the entire organization. CFOs are striving to become more proactive and forward-looking in their reporting, using new technologies along with data from inside and outside their organization to prepare for future changes more easily and accurately.
  • Banking finance executives are more likely than those in other industries to provide proactive analysis of future business scenarios throughout the organization (cited by 40 percent of banking CFOs compared with 34 percent across the other industries, on average). Insurance CFOs are significantly more likely than those in other sectors to say that finance should take a leading role in identifying and managing control of the most critical data (cited by 57 percent of insurance CFOs compared with 38 percent across the other industries, on average).
  • Challenges finding finance talent with data and analytics skills. The need for sophisticated data analysis among banking and insurance finance professionals is creating a new challenge: recruiting and retraining talent to execute on the analytics enabled by additional data and advanced tools.

Some of the insurance report findings show a majority of CFOs are working to prepare their companies’ workforce for digital tech. A smaller percentage are taking more aggressive means such as meeting with tech accelerators and acquiring startups.

The highlights:

  • 52 percent of insurance CFOs said they’re creating a “collaborative and agile environment” that gives their company connectivity and the ability for departments to cross-share ideas.
  • 46 percent said they’re empowering the company’s existing workforce to develop new skills.
  • 27 percent said they’re meeting with tech accelerators and other parts of the “tech ecosystem” to access technology.
  • 23 percent said they’re acquiring startups.

Source: Accenture