For years, Omar Choucair and his team at Dallas-based Trintech have been calling attention to the importance of digitization of the finance function. Practicing what he preaches, he and his team's reliance on digital software has been their saving grace amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Clearly things have been crazy, but, I'd say, Trintech was built for this," Choucair told CFO Dive in an interview Thursday. "We were prepared for working from home. We’re a software business. It’s foundational to what we do."
Choucair's longtime goal at Trintech, a SaaS business which specializes in financial close software, has been to bring together financial and operational metrics to improve customer retention and help CFOs with all of their growth goals. "There can be many benefits to merging financial metrics with operational metrics," he said. "[Decide] what that should look like, and then go out and find the data, and have it all in one platform so it’s repeatable and it’s accurate and do all that on a daily or weekly basis."
"There's a lot of opportunity in terms of how CFOs organize the financial close process, and how they can automate many of those processes to close the books faster," Choucair has said in the past.
Trintech's finance team has been working remotely for almost nine weeks, continuing to do the work that allows for CFOs to work more efficiently. "We remain laser-focused on that," he said.
The CFO role has morphed under these uncertain conditions, Choucair said. "It's expanded significantly ... Whether you're CFO of a public or private company, all CFOs are focused on two factors: forecasting and liquidity.
"The real key is having our systems in place throughout this craziness, so we can over-index more time and initiative in scenario forecasting and budgeting," he said. "This tech lets us go from traditional close, in terms of everything being automated at the end of month, to allowing us to focus on our insight."
Choucair said the CFO scope of focus has widened far beyond cash flow, which is normally his main objective. "In our business, we’ve been more involved with going to market, and sales, and we’ve been very focused on our customers, and the pain some of them are going through," he said, noting that this customer outreach has become a prime CFO responsibility.
Some of Trintech's clients, such as GSK, Sanofi and CVS Health, are doing extremely well. But some verticals are contracting, and Trintech is focused on helping them survive the crunch.
"The benefit of having tools and advanced tech are tantamount to shifting that effort," Choucair said. "Just last Tuesday, we issued our benchmark report, which found a tremendous amount of motivation among CFOs, who have historically been reluctant to move quickly."
In the back office, Choucair is insistent upon using technology to keep his team in constant contact. The finance team holds daily Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings, which Choucair said has led to a noticeable increase in productivity.
"Our productivity has been really strong, I think because we have the systems in place to handle the work," he said. "So we haven't experienced too much of an interruption."
Speaking to CFOs uncomfortable with the current remote workforce, Choucair says communicating internally with your finance team, and broadly, your company, is critical.
"Now is time to really look hard at automating your business systems," he said. "Some people may think contracting their business now doesn't make sense, but really, this is the time for tech implementation to be used to leverage and allow for scale."
Even in normal times, CFOs are always looking for ROI, efficiency and automation. And they usually look at liquidity and forecasting as means of understanding. But now, Choucair said, take the time to look at your back office systems.
"Many companies are doing extremely well, from an efficiency standpoint," he said. "They're realizing the benefit of shifting to new tech. There's so much opportunity for companies to accelerate, and realize these efficiencies, and we’re the first to try to help people do that. We've got a long track record of doing that."
Across the board, Trintech's clients are seeing benefits of automation, Choucair said. "Hopefully these digitization efforts can help our people continue to move up the curve."