The 5th annual meeting of financial directors - CFO Congress 2016, held on May 18 in the premises of the Czech National Bank under the title (CFO)3 = Fit For the Future, confirmed that CFOs are actively preparing for the future. In addition to macro-and micro-economic condition forecasts the program mainly offered practical guides to ease business with the help of modern technology and robotics, advices how to interpret the data better and what to expect from digitalization. The programme also focused on the inconsiderable challenge of CFOs: attracting and retaining high-quality, technologically efficient and committed associates. The event hosted over 150 participants and offered an extensive space for the panel discussion, charting the views of CFOs on current and especially future challenges.
Congress was moderated by Daniel Stach of the Czech Television who maintained a lively debate in the conference hall throughout the whole day. The first program block, called Current and future challenges for CFOs, was opened by a poll among the participants: 81% expected an optimistic development – more than 2.5% growth of sales in their companies for the next year. David Marek, the Chief Economist of Deloitte predicted macro-economic forecast for the year 2016, and what should be taken into account when creating the 2017 plan: "The Czech economy is waiting for favourable weather in troubled times". We can expect a slowdown from the high speed, as the Czech economy grew so far very fast as a result of European funds, low commodity prices and loose monetary policy. However these special effects are already the past. Labour market is revived, the current balance of international trade is in surplus. Exchange rate commitment — 27 CZK/EUR will probably be extended for the year 2017. Interest rates will remain on the same level. In the five-year horizon, we can expect a GDP growth rate of around 2.5%.
The joint presentation of Pavel Pilař (Sophia Solutions) and Michal Kaštovský (PPF Bank) introduced modern tools in finance, which allow the effective use of data, development modelling and facilitate reporting with a clear message: "Engine of the 4th industrial revolution are the data bringing new dynamism, speed and huge capacity. We have to integrate, analyse and create information for management decision-making on a daily basis." Issues related to using the potential of the process-oriented business data warehouse, and introduction of "big data" was the topic of the next speaker Josef Langmayer (Raiffeisen investment company). Insight into the world of automated work was introduced by experts from Deloitte Pavel Šimák and Petr Kaválek. They showed the video example of RPA (robotic process automation), namely computer software that is installed in the computers of employees and operates according to the pre-programmed scripts with different applications, and demonstrated that robots handle the business processes 15 x faster than a man. The advantage of the RPA is reliability, savings, safety and speed. That represents an investment with a quick return, of less than a year.
Automation of some stereotype activities will affect the role of human beings, however the human element is still irreplaceable as Katerina Vranovská of Comdata accented in her speech. She reminded that the forecast talks about pretty harsh changes: in 20 years up to 47% of today's jobs such as accounting, cashiers in supermarkets, logisticians or nurses will be eliminated. But there will still remain jobs where irreplaceable kind human assistance, abstract thinking, personal service or creativity is needed.
Participants of the Congress very positively appreciated the open and substantive panel discussion of 6 successful CFOs, representing different sectors and types of companies, that talked about the issues related to the new CFO roles within the company, managerial style, the use of innovation and future opportunities and threats. Where has the CFO agenda shifted in the last three years? David Udal of Plzeňský Prazdroj explained that now he is particularly involved much more in the areas that are not primarily just finances. Up to 80% of his time is devoted to processes associated with business. Change of the CFO role was confirmed also by Thomas Merker (RWE), who stated that in recent years, the emphasis is primarily on explaining the strategy and motivation of collaborators to innovative thinking: "I want to implement energy, ideas and strategic thinking into the organisation. It is important not to push, but to pull!" It seems that most present CFOs are on the right path, as was confirmed by the vote of the audience: 78% of participants closely cooperate with the CEO and other top executives and consider themselves rather as a part of the front-office, than „the office mouse from the back-office".
The concluding discussion on the threats and opportunities for future development was in particular highly inspirational. Vladimir Rada (Lindab) stressed the need to find good quality co-workers and systematically build company management to be ready to guide the company through another possible crises. Among the biggest threats for RWE, Thomas Merker (RWE) ranked unpredictable political decisions, changes in legislation and new regulations and subsidies. Michal Košacký (Doosan Skoda Power) is concerned about the arrogance of power, and further regulations and barriers to internal trade within the EU. Lucie Urválková (UNIQA) is mainly concerned by the legislative environment and the lack of good-quality people. Her final message in the panel discussion therefore was: "Do not forget to surround yourself with people that you like and who like you. That is the only way you can do big things!"
The last part of the Congress, dedicated to useful helpers of CFO, was opened by Patrik Tjokorda (Expensa). He introduced the prepaid bank card, which replaces the cash register and cash flow in the company, reduces operating costs and increases control and security. Jan Kubik from Thomson Reuters offered easy possibility how to obtain information for the assessment of opportunities and risks, and thus understand the dynamics of the external environment and its impact on the company. How to prevent bad tax specification on real estate was an advice of Zbyněk Kugler (CAKI).
The 5th year of the Congress was organized by the company Blue Events. Professional guarantor of the Congress was Deloitte.