Shaping the future of the Techno-Finance Era

Insights from the 4th IMA Annual Middle East Techno-Finance Era conference

 

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA) brought together industry professionals recently at the 4th IMA Annual Middle East Techno-Finance Era conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

 

The discussions highlighted the importance for financial entities and companies to choose the right software to help their business grow. As the role of the CFO expands from beyond the spreadsheets to spearheading innovation, it is crucial to depend on the right technology to complete tasks efficiently.

 

According to Dr. Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Maghames, Secretary General, SOCPA, collaborating with IMA for the IMA Techno- Finance Era conference meant being able to connect with people all over the world and seeing the conference as a platform for the industry to know about SOCPA.

 

President, Saudi Arabia - Eastern Province Chapter of IMA, Bassam Asiri spoke about integrating technology's best practices. He highlighted that Management make better business decisions based on accurate, relevant and well-structured data and information provided to them by management accountants.

 

Ben Mullings, Chair of IMA’s Global Directors and Chief Financial Officer of TENTE Casters, Inc. highlighted that today's CFO faces many challenges in their role of adding value to the organization as businesses become more complex and that the challenges for tomorrows CFO and finance team are hugely more complex than today's.

 

He highlighted that the days of being able walk into finance and not having any knowledge or expertise in technology are pretty much over. It means you cannot only understand your product and your customer, you need to understand the technology that goes with it.

 

He mentions, “Tomorrow's CFOs who will need a much broader skill set. What you see more of today is a marriage between technology and finance. To be successful in finance you have merge with technology and at IMA we can help our members benefit from the education that comes from the merging of technology and finance.”

 

“As technology increases, you’re only going to have to do more with less. That’s just a part of the game and that is a universal concept. It is not regional or specific to a country concept. So that is why I think it is important that all financial people get on board with technology in the finance function because it is going to be even more necessary for our job in the future as economies grow and try to become more efficient to maintain growth rates,” added Ben.

 

Ben mentions that IMA is pouring in to the education through technology and finance, research studies on technology and finance as well as focusing on academics, young professionals and students.

 

He added, “We were at Zayed University and spoke to them about getting the academics involved, getting the students working in to a curriculum that is more relevant to todays skill sets that is needed, helping setup student chapters, getting students more involved at a young age because what that does is give them the opportunity to lead at a young age.” The conference also saw Loutfi Chehade Financial Advisor for Family Businesses moderating the panel discussion on Challenges of The CFO team in the new tech era.

 

He mentioned that lack of communication, lack of coordination and lack of alignment between the IT and the finance function can be resolved with a common platform, a common language and an interchange of key responsibilities to deliver accurate information required by decision makers.

 

Lutfi mentions that he sees a lot of companies facing the challenges in closing their financial statements on time and mainly because either their systems were not adjusted or configured with the new standards or because they don’t have the proper technical resources.

 

Maan, Karadsheh, Senior Manager at Consulting Deloitte & Touche, was part of a panel discussion about the challenges that the CFO faces while working with IT.

The discussion highlighted the need for proper technological enablement within the business, to allow for the proper filtration of data to help the business grow from a finance perspective.

 

According to Maan, finance professionals need to bring new knowledge to their organisations, especially now that finance is coming together with technology. He mentions that today’s CFOs need to focus on the importance of data in general, being able to make sure that they implement those systems that can give them proper data and making sure that they have team inside with them that can help them to make sense of that data.

 

Fadi Aloul from he HP Institute and the American University of Sharjah spoke about the growing value of investing in and maintaining cyber security for both companies and end-users. He advocated the need to integrate cyber security awareness in schools via computing courses in which cyber security content is taught on what to do and what not to do on the Internet or with any smart devices.

 

On SOCPA’s collaboration with IMA, Ahmed Moghames, Secretary General of SOCPA said, “SOCPA encourages activities that increase the knowledge within accountants, auditing and wherever there is knowledge, we become knowledge seekers. We think that IMA is one of the institutions worldwide that can be partnered with so we can receive as much knowledge as we can for our accountants in Saudi Arabia.”

 

“SOCPA is working on a big project called “Transitioning in to Affairs”, in to the international accounting or international financial reporting standards affairs and also with the international auditing insurance standards, supposed to start by next year (2017).

 

“The role of the accountant within the companies is to learn how they can implement these standards in their companies by training, attending more conferences and contacting each other so they can learn about the difficulties and find solutions for them.”

 

Hatem Kawasmy, Managing Partner, KPMG Jordan Chairman of the Arab Federation of Accountants and Auditors, Chairman of Jordan Association of Certified Public Accountant spoke about the new standard issued by international accounting standards called IFRS 16 leases.

 

According to him, the new standard will significantly affect many industries especially airline industries, travel industries. These standards are put on the financial statements around three trillion dollars that was not already on the financial statement. It used to be off the balance sheet because of the previous statement of the lease contract. “According to the IFRS 16 now all leases are required to consider all asset lease as an asset in the financial statement as well as liabilities. This standard will start to be implemented on the 8th of January 2019. All companies that have leases contracts will need to reconsider the way they are treating and measuring the lease contracts,” mentions Hatem.

 

Yahia Kafi, CFO Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives felt the need for prople to understand the challenges faced by CFO’S. He said, “The entire team within any corporation should work as business partners rather than different customers and provider suppliers. We just need to work in one team and understand the limitations we have.”

 

Finance and Accounting Director of Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co, Pierre Sommereijns was on the panel discussion addressing the current economic and political environment and the influence on the enterprise management. Pierre felt the topic was relevant to region and particularly for Saudi Arabia’s economic climate.

 

The two-day conference hosted panel discussions followed by audience Q&A’s, as well as sessions with lectures from distinguished speakers. The conference also featured an opportunity to earn more than 10 CPE credits, a scholarship announcement, and a competition. Exhibitors and sponsors included software vendors, payroll and benefits administrations, and publishers.

 

Edited by Shereen Shabnam

 

 

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