A new breed of finance frontrunners face the future: SMBs embrace the metaverse and cryptocurrency, Sage finds
- Half (52%) believe decentralized currencies will prove ‘extremely’ viable as a long-term payment solution
- A third (33%) plan to accept digital currencies within the next 12 months
- Over one-third (36%) of finance teams say their company has already entered the metaverse, while half (52%) say they plan to increase their presence
- A third (32%) of finance teams now looking for candidates with coding, developer, AI experience
- Three-quarters of financial decision makers put purpose over profits
A new study of 1,900 finance leaders by Sage, the leader in accounting, financial, HR, and payroll technology for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has found that over four-fifths (83%) of finance leaders believe the industry needs a new breed of CFO.
“The Redefined CFO” study investigates how finance leaders today take a more holistic approach with a reliance on data to engage with the wider strategic priorities of organizations. Stepping out from the shadow of the CEO, the CFO has become a hub of business information – diversifying their expertise, recruiting the right talent, and ensuring they implement emerging technologies and purpose-driven programs to remove friction and deliver insights. The Chief Facilitative, Fairness, and Focus Officers represent this new breed of CFO.
“Finance leaders in the U.S. are redefining what it means to be a CFO,” said Judy Romano, VP and CFO, Sage North America. “Through their purpose-driven approach to the role, their adoption of breakthrough technologies, and work across a range of business units, finance leaders are taking their place as forward-facing guides for organizations.”
See below for highlighted findings from the report. Click here to download a copy of the full U.S. report.
Cryptocurrency and the metaverse embraced by SMBs
The research found that finance officers within SMBs are increasingly embracing cryptocurrencies and the metaverse as digital payments technology forces an evolution.
While only 17% of global finance teams reported currently accepting cryptocurrency transactions, one-third (33%) plan to accept decentralized currencies within the next 12 months. Just over half (52%) believe these currencies will prove ‘extremely’ viable as a long-term payment solution. The biggest hurdles surrounding adoption of cryptocurrencies were internal environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies (22%) and finding the right talent to manage it (22%).
See related article: Mastercard Expands Consulting with Practices Dedicated to Crypto, Open Banking and ESG
The research also revealed that over two-fifths (44%) of finance leaders have used cryptocurrency as payment for personal transactions, whilst nearly half (48%) have personally invested in cryptocurrency. Another half (49%) plan to invest in it.
When it came to the metaverse, SMBs may be further ahead in embracing the new technology than many anticipate. Over one-third (36%) of finance teams say their company has already entered the metaverse, while half (52%) say they plan to increase their presence over the coming year. Over half (54%) of respondents are planning learning programs in the metaverse, and almost half (42%) are purchasing virtual real estate (via NFTs).
Global findings breakdown
SMBs are accessing new capabilities all the time, supported by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and blockchain, to better manage their finances and run their businesses more effectively.
Finance leaders in the U.S. were the most bullish: almost half (46%) of U.S. SMBs have already entered the metaverse, compared with only 30% of UK and 32% of Canadian businesses.
U.S. finance teams were also amongst the most likely to already be accepting cryptocurrency transactions, with a fifth (21%) already accepting these payments. The U.S. trails only Australia – where 29% of businesses already accept decentralized payments. These figures were substantially higher than those seen in the UK (13%) and Canada (12%) which are lagging.
In terms of the long-term viability of cryptocurrency as a payment source for SMBs, 60% of U.S. finance teams believe it to be extremely viable. This compares with 44% of UK and half (49%) of Canadian finance executives.
Aaron Harris, Chief Technology Officer, Sage commented:
“I’m passionate about elevating the work of humans. By this, I mean letting the machines take the admin burden, spot anomalies, and automate repetitive tasks – freeing up humans to focus on what they do best. The metaverse is a great example of the convergence of our digital and physical lives – integrating human touchpoints through digital means to knock down barriers. And while it’s still early days for most, the metaverse is normalizing some emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies for SMBs which, in turn, removes friction and delivers insights.”
“Yet despite the appetite for new technologies and business models, the availability of skills remains an industry-wide issue that, as a community, we need to solve. Offering more than the traditional finance roles, I hope this will help our profession appeal to an increasingly wider demographic.”
Purpose and people ahead of profit
Finance teams are now prioritizing technology skills over financial experience in recruitment, and it is impacting the hunt for new skills. One-third (32%) of finance teams say they are now looking for candidates with either coding, developer, or AI algorithmic building experience. In fact, candidates with a strong AI pedigree were even more appealing than strong finance candidates willing to train and develop AI skills (38% compared to 34%, respectively). However, both are more attractive candidates than professionals without any technical skillset at all.
Organizations are also prioritizing people and empathy in business decisions. Three-quarters of financial decision makers are encouraged by their organization to prioritize people (77%), account for empathy and understanding when making business decisions (75%) and put purpose over profits (74%).
This study is based on 1,900 responses from finance leaders in the Healthcare, Nonprofit, Financial Services, Professional Services, Hospitality, SaaS / Tech, E-commerce / Retail industries at organizations with less than 1000 employees and annual revenue of at least $50M for the US, UK, Australia, and South Africa and at least $5M for Canada. Survey respondents were provided by Torfac, a global market research leader with expertise in reaching niche audiences, and Op4G, a global market research panel built to support data collection while simultaneously benefitting non-profits. Field dates: January 7 to 28, 2022.
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