The inaugural 2021 CFO Insights Survey, co-released by Tricor Group and FutureCFO, reveals sentiments, insights and priorities from a sample of ~600 CFOs worldwide. The research study samples a cross-section of CFOs from startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), multinational corporations (MNCs) and listed companies in the private sector globally with a concentration on the key Asia Pacific (APAC) markets of Hong Kong SAR, mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore.
The 2021 CFO Insights Survey identifies unique drivers influencing the decision-making process among senior finance leaders, drawing from primary survey data along with secondary research findings. Additionally, the report provides industry analysis, recommendations and best practices to help finance departments build resiliency, drive operational efficiencies and boost capabilities.
Rather than waiting for a return to “normal”, CFOs are charting a new path forward.
The 2021 CFO Insights Survey also underscores five key priorities which CFOs must consider to help navigate the unpredictable and unprecedented business landscape post-COVID-19:
Drawing from secondary research data and expertise from Tricor experts, the report also suggests that CFOs must leverage specialized expertise across key areas, including business continuity planning (BCP), governance, risk management and compliance (GRC), environmental, social and governance (ESG) and digital transformation.
The study also highlights takeaways in APAC, concentrating on differentiators in the markets of Hong Kong SAR, mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore. Here is a sample of those findings:
Despite operational efficiency being the top priority, 61% of the CFOs and senior finance leaders surveyed in Hong Kong SAR said they were reluctant to outsource non-core business functions, including finance and accounting.
With COVID-19 mostly under control in the country, a 69% majority of the 92 firms in mainland China we surveyed now expect their businesses to perform better or significantly better in 2021 compared to 2020.
Just over half (54%) of the CFOs and finance leaders polled in Malaysia expect business in 2021 to be “better than” 2020 and 11% expect it to be “significantly better,” compared to 62% and 15%, respectively, in neighboring Singapore.
More than a third (34%) of the CFOs and finance leaders surveyed in Singapore reported that reducing exposure to office leases and utility costs would be their top priority when reviewing operating expenses. Notably, this was not the case in Hong Kong SAR despite both cities being notorious for high costs of office rentals, implying that firms in Singapore are more likely to adopt longer-term remote work arrangements.
We invite you to explore valuable survey data and expert insights from Tricor Group and FutureCFO with the inaugural 2021 CFO Insights Survey. This comprehensive report can be referenced by finance leaders to stay ahead of the curve and learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the world of finance and accounting in the long-term.
While the still unfolding situation continues to trigger waves of uncertainty, changes always open new doors to opportunities. But only those bold enough to confront the unknown head-on can reap the rewards. Rather than waiting for a return to “normal”, the findings of our study reveal that CFOs are now charting new paths forward. Notably, the APAC CFOs we polled were largely optimistic about 2021, with 68% expecting better performance compared to 2020.
Many of the CFO priorities identified in the study are intrinsically linked. For example, selling, general & administrative expense (SG&A) and procurement are two areas where companies can significantly reduce costs and gain efficiencies. Essentially, CFOs remain focused on the areas where they can shift high fixed costs to variable costs. This way they can later adjust these investments alongside the ebbs and flows of the economy.
Group Chief Commercial Officer
As we approach recovery, CFOs are shifting the focus for seizing opportunities in the rebound. As concerns about cash preservation are addressed, the CFO will focus on ensuring that the company is positioned to operate effectively in the ‘next normal.’ This involves making operational improvements to increase productivity, revising the investment portfolio and bolstering the finance function’s capabilities. Notably, continuous digitization is the key to success in these areas.
Group Chief Financial Officer &
Group Chief Operating Officer
The 2021 CFO Insights Survey suggests that CFOs are actively applying lessons learned during the pandemic to blaze new paths forward. With valuable survey data and expert insights from Tricor Group, this survey can be referenced by finance leaders to stay ahead of the curve and learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of finance and accounting in the long-term.
Group Head of Marketing & Communications
Over the past decade, CFOs have evolved to become business planning strategists but their role as stewards has never been more significant than it is today. By asserting a resilient approach in upcoming months, CFOs in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific will steer the organization to reprioritize and reposition for success in the rebound and recovery. If CFOs can stick to resilience as a priority, what was a headwind will soon become a tailwind.
Tricor Hong Kong
China became the first major economy to economically recover from the pandemic, with a GDP growth of 2.3% in 2020. For the first half of 2021, China’s GDP increased by 12.7% and foreign investment by 28.7%. With continuous opening-up and business reforms, many corporations have managed to grow in China. However, the pandemic still provides a profound teaching moment for CFOs to rethink their operating models and engage professional service providers to help drive digital transformation and tackle operational complexities.
CEO, Tricor Mainland ChinaGroup Chief Transformation Officer, Tricor Group
After more than a year of living through the pandemic crisis and continuing to recognize challenges ahead, CFOs in Malaysia and throughout the Asia Pacific region remain cautiously optimistic about their projection for 2021 and beyond. While the majority are no longer waving the red cautionary flag, there is recognition that the economy we return to will not be the same we had before the pandemic.
Yeap Kok Leong
CEO & Managing Director
Tricor Malaysia / Labuan
Our data suggests that CFOs in Singapore, as well as other markets in Asia Pacific, are acutely concerned about their organization’s financial data when it comes to outsourcing finance functions.The best way for CFOs to navigate concerns for financial data security is to, first and foremost, only engage partners that are well-established and have a strong track record to adopt best practices in data security. Furthermore, CFOs should conduct due diligence to fully understand the outsourced firm’s physical security, data management and record disposal practices.David Ong