\Per the latest Deloitte Asia Pacific (APAC) CFO Survey 2023, 94 percent of Indian Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) expressed confidence in the nation’s economic future, displaying the highest optimism across the APAC region. According to the report, more than 30 percent of Asian CFOs have confidence in the nation’s economic future, with 71 percent of Japanese CFOs being more neutral compared with their Australian (51 percent) and Chinese (49 percent) counterparts. Indian CFOs’ confidence underscores the resilience and proactive strategies that Indian financial leaders adopt during global economic uncertainties.
The report titled “The next set of imperatives for CFOs in the Asia-Pacific region,” demonstrates the business imperatives facing organisations of 276 leading CFOs in the region. It highlights CFOs’ responses to the near-term business landscape marked by economic fluctuations, slowing growth, surging inflation, and elevated interest rates.
Closely mirroring the economic sentiments, the survey also reveals a distinct sense of optimism amongst Indian CFOs regarding their companies’ financial prospects. With 85 percent demonstrating some degree of optimism, Indian CFOs exhibit a more positive outlook towards their organisations’ outlook compared with their counterparts in other Asia Pacific nations, such as Australia and Japan, where the sentiment is more neutral.
Global economic slowdown or recession (59 percent), geopolitical issues (53 percent), and digital and technology disruption (27 percent) have emerged as the top three external risks concerning Indian CFOs. Securing and retaining talent (59 percent), disruption in products or markets (41 percent), and technology implementation/digital disruption (35 percent) have been cited as key internal risks. “When it comes to truly harnessing the power of digital, CFOs in Asia Pacific feel that there is a considerable distance to traverse. A fraction of CFOs are harnessing big data and analytics or actively seeking AI and Machine Learning solutions to optimise their finance function. This is where the leading CFOs will play an integral role. It is inspiring to note that Indian CFOs, in particular, are at the forefront, demonstrating a proactive willingness to embrace technology for transformation of the finance domain,” said Porus Doctor, Asia Pacific CFO Program Leader and Partner, Deloitte India.
CFOs differ in their approach towards managing the above-mentioned risks across Asia Pacific. About 78 percent of Indian CFOs prioritise technology automation to minimise risks, compared with Australia, China, and Japan that focus on managing costs (40 percent), improving monitoring of operational procedures (44 percent), and monitoring portfolios and investment decisions (52 percent), respectively.
“The landscape of the Indian CFO is undergoing a transformative shift, transcending conventional financial oversight to emerge as pioneers in strategic agility and digital innovation. In this paradigm shift, C-suite executives are increasingly turning to Indian CFOs not only as custodians of financial prudence but as pivotal architects of comprehensive business strategy. The survey results reflect these trends, with India topping the charts in expectations from CFOs for steering organisational transformation within their companies,” said Nandita Pai, Partner and CFO Program Leader, Deloitte India.
According to the Deloitte survey, the role of a CFO is changing. About 86 percent Indian CFOs feel that their responsibilities, in terms of expectation from C-suite leadership, have broadened over the past two years. Nearly 84 percent of Indian CFOs said that they are expected to lead transformative initiatives within their organisations.
Key business priorities across the Asia-Pacific region over the next 12 months according to CFOs surveyed are revenue growth (62 percent), cost control (56 percent), and productivity improvement (37 percent). In Australia, 75 percent of CFOs cited cost control as the top priority, while in Japan, CFOs cited finding talent (48 percent) as a focus. Moreover, in China, revenue growth (70 percent) and cost control (49 percent) remain the top priority areas. For Indian CFOs as well, revenue growth (73 percent), cost control (47 percent), and productivity improvement (37 percent) remain the top three priorities for the next year.
In the Asia-Pacific region, many companies face the urgent challenge of addressing the imperative of climate change. This is reflected in the region’s regulatory landscape that is undergoing transformation as governments and policymakers transition from voluntary disclosures to comply-or-explain disclosures, to mandatory disclosures. About 61 percent of Indian CFOs agree that climate and sustainability regulations will have an impact on their financial reporting.
Indian CFOs also displayed this urgency in terms of putting in place adequate processes to comply with climate requirements; about 59 percent plan to implement the necessary processes in the future and 37 percent have already implemented these processes. The survey also highlighted the degree of preparedness of CFOs to tackle ESG challenges, with 22 percent of Indian CFOs being prepared in this regard.
In terms of proactive sustainability initiatives by Indian CFOs, adopting public policy positions that promote sustainability and actions to address climate change (65 percent), encouraging or requiring suppliers and business partners to meet specific environmental sustainability criteria (53 percent), and using more sustainable materials (55 percent), topped the list.