With more than 15 years’ experience in commercial finance leadership roles and recently appointed as the Head of Global Finance Services for McDonald’s – ANZ, Duha Zaater knows a thing or two about the role finance plays in an organisation’s success. Her recent presentation to a room full of key finance industry professionals focussed on ‘finance as business partners’.

We spoke to Duha afterward to get her views on the future of finance and the impact of business partnering to driving growth and change in an organisation.

Why do you think finance as business partners is so important?

Due to the increased complexity and pressures on markets globally, finance is expected to be at the forefront driving business strategic decisions whether it’s the growth strategy, addressing competition, industry challenges or political and economic instability. We are asked to do more for less thus having to optimise on process efficiencies, automation and technology to help redirect finance support from traditional finance into commercial focused partners.  

How would this impact the wider business?

It benefits the business on several levels as finance becomes a driver and an enabler for business growth. In my experience, this indeed helped us collaborate with the business in building proactive finance solutions that are targeted at increasing market penetration actions whether it’s in:

  • Helping sales close contracts in terms of pricing strategy, payment terms and so on;
  • Support wider business partners (i.e. distributors, joint ventures) in tackling market challenges whether it’s driving inventory management strategy or transfer pricing adjustments for example.
  • Support internal business partners in designing better incentive plans targeted towards strategic priorities (i.e. in increasing sales or improving costs).

What advice would you give to a leader trying to bring about change in their business?

There are few things to consider actually:

  • Priorities: Focus on core stakeholders. Focus on what’s important. Opinion leaders who are possible ambassadors;
  • To ask yourself if this change is going to make it simpler and easier to deal with your department or the business overall;
  • Bring your stakeholders with you on the journey and managing their expectations is key to the success of change;
  • To design the change around processes and activities and not individuals.

What do you see as the potential 'future of finance?

Steep growth in technology optimisation over the next 10 years with the majority of current finance roles to be replaced and the rise of new skills in finance professionals.

What are some of the challenges you foresee?

Getting our heads around managing bots. It will have an element of hit and miss and lessons learned but we need to make sure we understand the risks that come with the increasing deployment of robotics and come with the appropriate mitigation plans.

If you're looking for more financial leadership insights, read our report addressing some of the biggest challenges facing CFOs from SMEs to multinationals – and the four approaches needed to overcome them.

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