Top Priorities for Finance Executives in 2014

Protiviti, a subsidiary of Robert Half, is a global consulting firm that helps companies solve problems in finance, technology, operations, governance, risk and internal audit. The following is an overview of Protiviti’s 2014 Finance Priorities Survey: findings from a survey of more than 220 finance professionals – consisting of CFOs, vice presidents and directors of finance, and controllers. The survey report and other resources can be found at

In its latest annual study to identify the top challenges for CFOs and finance professionals, Protiviti surveyed 220 CFOs and other financial executives about their priorities for the coming year. Our survey was broken down into five categories:

  • Financial Transactions
  • Financial Analysis
  • Emerging Issues
  • Technical Capabilities
  • Organizational Capabilities

Here’s a summary of our key findings. For more details, visit, where you can download our full report as well as our infographic, and view our short video.

Financial Transactions

Here, the top priority unquestionably is how to be more efficient in performing transactions such as the period-end close. In particular, CFOs and finance staff are scrutinizing how to automate manual processes that slow the execution of transactions and period-end reporting.

Cash forecasting and better management of working capital are also on their radar. This reflects concerns about economic volatility: Companies want to be in the best position to respond quickly in a rapidly changing environment, and that takes cash.

In line with this, executives also see improving bank relationships as a high priority. Access to lines of credit and a closer working relationship (with daily access to the organization’s cash position) are the primary objectives.

Financial Analysis

Financial executives are working to increase their involvement in strategic planning - the highest of all their priorities. This means that periodic forecasting and budgets are also high on the list, as financial executives seek greater understanding and clarity related to organizational performance and cash positions.

Part and parcel with this is the finance function’s involvement in providing more and better data to their organizations about profitability of services or product lines, customers, customer segments and channels. Enterprises are demanding solid, actionable data from financial executives that will help organizations to become more competitive and profitable.

There also is significant emphasis on business intelligence and mining big data to strengthen competitive intelligence capabilities. Corporate decision-makers are looking for these strategic insights, and financial executives are striving to deliver.

Emerging Issues

Emerging issues are always accompanied by uncertainty, and financial executives are focusing on much the same issues as other enterprise executives: U.S. healthcare reform and lack of clarity around its long-term costs, as well as sustainability, globalization and workforce mobility. This is true across all industries as financial executives seek to gain more clarity on these issues.

Technical Capabilities

Finance departments continue to face intense pressure to comply with emerging and evolving business tax policies, regulations and accounting standards. In particular, finance executives and professionals are focused on a potential overhaul of U.S. tax laws, changes to state and/or jurisdiction taxes, and the ongoing implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. New revenue recognition standards loom on the horizon.

Organizational Capabilities

Finance executives’ focus on core priorities, such as strategic planning, forecasting, budgeting and the period-end close, are concomitant with their need to continue strengthening leadership and management skills. This, in turn, leads to an emphasis on coaching/mentoring, personnel performance evaluation and developing rapport with business unit executives.

In addition to commentary in our report, we offer key questions for finance executives to consider when addressing these issues. Related blogs can be found at The Protiviti View, which features commentary, insights and points of view on key challenges and risks facing companies today.

I’d be interested in hearing from you: Do our findings mirror the priorities of your own organization’s finance department?