MENA financial leaders prioritize business continuity amid COVID-19: EY

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Middle East
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The finance leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region give priority to ensuring continuity of business, digital transformation and optimization of remote working amidst the prevailing pandemic, found a recent survey.

According to the Ernst & Young (EY) MENA Financial Accounting Advisory Services survey report, 71 percent of finance leaders consider preserving the continuity of business operations a high priority, 56 percent prioritized digital and automation capabilities and 83 percent say that optimizing policies and processes for remote working is a medium or high priority.

EY is one of the largest multinational professional services network in the world and is headquartered in London, UK.

The survey result has been released at a time when the pandemic has led the economy and finance functions to face liquidity challenges as well as disruption in business operations with 69 percent of survey participants saying overcoming finance and liquidity challenges is a high priority for their organizations.

Khurram Mian
Khurram Mian
Assurance Leader
EY – MENA Region

“The enormity of the challenges faced by finance leaders cannot be understated, with many having to balance the immediate, short-term response to the crisis while planning to build strength and resilience for the next phase. COVID-19 presents a strong business case to accelerate the digital transformation journey that will be key to equipping finance functions with added capabilities to thrive beyond the pandemic.”

In the coming months, the financial leaders will have to take monumental measures to balance their short and mid-term objectives, but they will also need to infuse a custom that is highly focused on non-financial information to unlock long-term value, Mr. Mian further added.

The findings also suggest that agility and flexibility will be highly significant to balance with unstable business needs.

In many organizations, a compulsory remote working system was set up almost within a night and customer-facing operations were paused which forced the finance leaders to restructure the business-as-usual environment as soon as possible.

Another immediate task for organizations was to reorganize teams, reallocate resources and increase the frequency of communications to keep employees connected through virtual channels.

“38 percent of those surveyed say that there will be a need to make substantial changes or overhaul the finance operating model completely,” it added.

Investing in the operational transformation when capital and liquidity are limited will be a challenge and the report underlined that finance leaders will need to make use of flexible service delivery models that enable their functions to expand through balanced investments like managed services, subscription-based technologies, contingent workforce among others. 25 percent of finance leaders are looking to do so by boosting their dependency over offshoring, outsourcing or managed services.

Beyond the current COVID-19 situation, advanced technologies optimized policies and processes and flexible operating models will help the finance leaders to play a significant role in non-financial value creation and reporting.

The pandemic has forced companies to increase their focus on the environment, health and safety, and other value drivers such as trust, reputation, social impact, employee well-being and culture, the report stated.

“Evolving the culture of finance to focus on both financial and non-financial reporting is the crucial bridge that will take finance functions to the next level, positioning them to play an increasingly pivotal role in long-term value creation,” Omar Odeh, MENA Financial Accounting Advisory Services Leader of EY stated.