- Business leaders remain confident about their ability to grow in 2023 despite persistent challenges thanks to economic headwinds which are still keeping costs top of mind, according to a study released Tuesday by payment processing platform Stripe.
- Inflation still remains a top concern, even as leaders eye revenue-boosting projects and new markets, with 80% remaining bearish about the future of the economy. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said they are facing higher operating costs, for example, but most — 65% —still remain confident about their ability to grow, according to the study.
- Businesses are still playing tug-of-war when it comes to focusing on costs or revenue, however — globally, companies are almost equally split between increasing revenue or cutting down on costs, with 51% reporting they are prioritizing the former in 2023 while 49% said the same of the latter.
Payment tools are one of the ways business leaders are aiming to boost revenue, with 75% saying they plan to offer embedded finance services to their customers in 2023, for example. The 39% of leaders who said their businesses plan to enter new markets will focus on localizing the payments experience, with 82% planning to customize their checkout experience based on customers’ locations.
While leaders turn to new payment tools to help facilitate growth, they are also eyeing new technologies to help pare down spending as they seesaw between those two goals.
Executives see financial tasks especially as ripe for automation, with 35% of C-suite executives highlighting invoicing and business-to-business payments as the areas they are most eager to automate. Twenty-nine percent of executives pointed to revenue reconciliation and accounting in the next most-popular category.
Improving data quality and transparency is one key way automation can help to add more efficiency to the finance function, at a time when CFOs — still dealing with banking turmoil and other headwinds that can prod at their bottom lines — are reporting challenges when it comes to things like closing their books.
Executives cited scattered data and troubles with multiple software providers as hiccups which can bleed resources from finance employees, with 37% of business leaders stating consolidating data from multiple sources was the “biggest source of avoidable effort from their finance teams, according to the Stripe report. Sixty percent of CFOs agreed poor data quality makes it more difficult to close their books accurately and in a timely manner, with the majority also claiming the time their finance teams are giving to operational work has increased. Another 60% said their finance teams have spent more time focusing on operational work, and less on strategic work over the past three years.
Automating manual or routine finance functions can help CFOs address such challenges, freeing up time not only for the finance team but enabling the business to focus further on new, revenue-driving projects. Consolidating the tools they do use is also top of mind for executives, with 70% planning to consolidate their software providers, focusing particularly on invoicing and business-to-business payments.
Figuring out how to most efficiently implement automation and, increasingly, AI have been on CFO’s minds since the beginning of the year, with finance chiefs weighing the return on investment of these emerging technologies.
A growing cadre of companies are also beginning to offer automated or AI-enabled solutions tailored to finance. Software provider Datarails announced Tuesday it is testing out AI capabilities for a financial planning and analysis tool, for example, which follows previous moves such as those by finance tech startup Brex who announced new tools for CFOs powered by OpenAI technology earlier in the month.
The report included responses from 2,500 business leaders at major businesses across nine countries, including founders, enterprise executives, heads of payments and CFOs.