CFO Edge Post Event Report – November 2019

CFO Edge
Post Event Report

Are we ready for 2020? Systemic Change, Strategic Value and the Modern CFO
13 November 2019 at Intercontinental in Sydney

This November ADAPT proudly hosted 120 leading CFOs.

Over these last 8 years and 11 CFO events, ADAPT has seen the role evolve far beyond finance, to emerge as strategic transformation leader, and the navigator of these challenges, opportunities and risks of the modern digital business.

Most are trying to reinvent as a “Digital Business” and compete on experience with technology at centre stage, but ADAPT’s research shows that many of the C-suite do not believe their organisation is prepared or resourced to manage or potentially even survive this digital age.

With massive changes and most of the S&P 500 expected to churn faster than ever, locally we’ve been far too risk-averse and complacent, and we now lag the world in many key areas.

Legacy processes and systems are crippling our largest organisations. Whilst there are examples of nimble companies, others are not adopting new ways of doing things fast enough to catch up, let alone keep pace. As technology, trade wars, and competitive threats disrupt us all – many CFOs don’t believe their current finance functions are equipped to meet these increasing demands.

We do have the talent and resources to succeed but the modern digital CFO needs to emerge and lead today.

Bold moves are required to make the most of the opportunities – to refute threats – to challenge assumptions – to take calculated risks – to create and lead a resilient financial operation; to strike the right balance between technology and people – and to drive growth and advantage.

It’s a time for far better capital allocation to transformation, for calculated experiments, to define the roadmap, to navigate the organisation’s journey through this industrial revolution, and to elevate your soft skills to successfully motivate and bring everyone on that journey – and we can all be more like ‘Alice’ the perfect modern CFO.

Looking forward to hosting you again soon.

Jim Berry


CFO Edge - Are we ready for 2020? Systemic Change, Strategic Value and the Modern CFO
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Content Highlights


Jonathan Smare: How can the CFO Drive Transformation

Smare listed the attributes of modern enterprises: new business models, consumption models, input from output, cloud consumption, utility models, new valuation models, and new work cultures. Ultimately, they connect customers to experiences.

To gain competitive advantage, he recommended understanding customer experiences and working backwards to solve their issues. Observe your customer’s reaction to your products and services. Use digital products to achieve these experiences.

The CFO plays a critical role in the organisation not through long term planning but through empowerment, cross-functionality. It’s about business-led technology that encourages innovation, agility, and customer obsession everywhere. The CFO should be the data steward, ensuring the organisation doesn’t receive competing data lakes with different conclusions.

Organisations have to make lots of small changes in small sprints. Constantly iterate in small, empowered, decentralised teams.”

Finance Leaders Panel Session: New ways for competitive advantage: data, forecasting and planning

Professor Walsh said that although there is a myriad of forecasting tools that businesses can use to make predictions about the future, organisations aren’t able to effectively use them because there is a huge shortage of people in the field. EY’s CFO Alison de Kleuver agreed.

According to De Kleuver, most organisations wrongly believe that technology itself is the solution to their problems. De Kleuver said that technology is, in fact, the most predictable and controllable part and it is the other things that can’t be easily controlled that organisations under-invest in.

It’s not the tech that goes wrong. It’s either human engagement or it’s the data.”

Partner at AccelerateHQ, Paul Shetler added that having worked and lived abroad, he noticed that Australian organisations do not have this intent and “appetite” to see where their business is headed because they haven’t been through a crisis in a long time. “Crises do have a good thing”, said Shetler. “They make people hungry and force them to start thinking about the future. Without that sense of urgency, pretty much any human activity tends towards being relatively flaccid.”

Senior Analytics Expert Milan Korbel suggested first mapping out the problem and the solution and then selecting the most feasible tool and do pilot testing to how they can get the culture and talent right.

Ian Oppermann: How the modern CFO can lead and leverage the data driven organisation

Oppermann shared with finance leaders at CFO Edge that NSW Government spends $30 billion a year through procurement to drive sustainability goals, stimulate the economy, to deliver a more effective government. An artificial intelligence neural network, convolutional neural network, and a regression algorithm was developed to read invoices and categorise them.

He said what was three weeks’ work for four people could now be automated in 3 hours. Algorithms alone were not enough for data accuracy. Datasets complement the missing information.

Out-of-Home Care was reviewed for children at risk of significant harm. The most important lesson learnt when defining factors of risk were to increase the variety of data to help understand your customer’s challenge.

Data is a way of seeing the world. Every data set is incomplete but gives you a different perspective into your challenge.”

CFO Delegation


Click here to see the list of delegation




Increased knowledge exchange between the CFO and other C-level executives help the CFO create greater value within their role.

CFOs should cultivate allies in the business to help them fulfil their aspirations and meet their objectives. This requires greater communication with other functions, however, when asked how effectively they collaborated with R&D, over 80% of responses admitted this was poor. Similarly, whilst improving customer analytics and experience was regarded as their 5th biggest business priority, 70% of respondents reported poor collaboration with customer service. These responses highlight a concern ADAPT took from the overall study in that CFOs appear to see their roles in isolation.

By collaborating with other leaders in the business such as CIOs, CFOs can make significant contribution to the digital transformation projects driven by CIOs. With greater communication and exchange of ideas, CFOs can share some of their business acumen with the CIOs to ensure that financial aspects IT initiatives are laid out well. Simultaneously, CIOs can educate the CFOs about how IT can help transform the finance function.



The dominant business priorities that CFOs highlighted have a strong internal focus, implying a skewed company vision.

CFOs are becoming increasingly narrow in their perspectives. The Federal Treasurer and the Reserve Bank Governor emphasise that Australian businesses need to uplift their productivity to be competitive in a global economy. This requires much more than a ‘business as usual’ mindset.


Some improvement to operational effectiveness can be realised through cost-elimination and associated improvements in existing business processes. However, much more significant gains will be achieved from leveraging new technologies to overhaul how current processes are delivered.

In 2020, CFOs will benefit from focusing on the following:

1. Creating a data-driven business

2. Be receptive to emerging technologies

3. Improve collaboration



AI, Automation and Analytics are key to enabling smoother, faster and secure transaction environments that enhance the brand value of a business.

Some of the biggest impacts of emerging technologies will be within the finance department. AI, predictive analytics, RPA will create an error-proof, consistent and robust finance function that can depict and future-proof the business better than how it undertakes it today. CFOs must show greater willingness to investigate these capabilities.

CFOs tell ADAPT that the top five emerging technologies that their organisation is planning, piloting and deploying will all be driven by harnessing data, whether it be workplace transformation, analytics, AI or RPA. Utilising these technologies though, will require new ways of thinking, whilst challenging CFOs to embrace new ways of working.

The survey reveals that CFOs are not using the capabilities of AI in predictive analytics (63%), boosting operational efficiency (63%), financial and business forecasting (75%), sales forecasting (78%) and pricing strategies (77%).


22 Strategic Partners

1-1 Metings conducted

Diamond Partner

Platinum Partner

Gold Partners

Silver Partners

Transport Partner

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Want an Advantage?

Get in touch and let ADAPT give you an Edge