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December 17, 2020

Full speed ahead: Airbase’s Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals reveals plans for a strong 2021.

Written by
Laura Slauson
Laura Slauson
Full speed ahead: Airbase’s Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals reveals plans for a strong 2021.Full speed ahead: Airbase’s Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals reveals plans for a strong 2021.
Download the Airbase Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals.

Airbase released the findings from its Annual Benchmark Survey of Finance Professionals today, and the results show that finance teams adapted quickly to the challenges of 2020 and have clear plans for taking on 2021. The survey received input from 745 finance professionals at small and mid-size U.S. businesses about the biggest issues they face as they adjust to the new post-COVID environment. 

One key theme that emerged was resiliency. Despite the challenges of 2020, a majority of respondents adjusted to the world of remote work, and many businesses experienced positive revenue growth. But perhaps the most telling sign of their adaptability is the depth of their goals for 2021. 

Finance leaders are geared up for 2021, with plans for positive changes to increase operational efficiency, dive deeper into data, and improve security. 
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2020 in review: Handling adversity. 

Much of the business world quickly transitioned to remote work environments in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a majority are satisfied with their newly distributed workforce. A mere 7% reported that their teams didn’t respond very well to the transition, so it’s not surprising that although just 6% of surveyed companies supported remote work prior to 2020, going forward, only 24% plan to fully return to the office after restrictions are lifted. 

Almost two thirds plan to make salary adjustments to reflect the different costs of living for those employees who take advantage of the flexibility of remote working arrangements.

Although the 2020 economy can only be described as challenging, 71% of our respondents said they expect to meet or exceed their projected revenue for the year. Over one quarter expects their revenues to grow by at least 25% more than was planned for 2020. Larger companies fared better on average, with about two in five smaller companies (between 50–100 employees) expecting revenue to be lower than planned for the year. 

2021 plans: Becoming stronger. 

Research has proven that companies who embrace technology to address challenges fare better in times of adversity, and it seems that the survey respondents are taking that to heart. 

When asked to identify their top priorities for 2021, over 40% named “Improve or change finance operations by adding new systems or processes.” This finding may reflect growing awareness of recent advances in areas like intelligent spend management that can reduce onerous tasks, such as the monthly close, by a significant amount of time. Just over one third named “Improve data security and privacy,” which is another area gaining a lot of attention and experiencing rapid change. 

Almost one third felt that one of their top priorities is to automate accounting tasks. This interest in accounting automation may, in part, be the result of staffing plans for 2021; just over half of companies surveyed (54%) plan to hire more people in 2021. However, hiring plans for finance departments suggest that they are expected to expand their capacity as their company scales; 27% of the companies who plan to increase headcount report that their finance teams will stay the same size. Accounting automation helps financial operations scale with headcount growth without adding additional burden, or needing to hire more staff. 

Accounting automation also frees up more time for more high-value, strategic analysis that can help companies adapt to the inevitable changes of 2021. As a result, more companies are increasing their focus on FP&A, a shift which was identified as one the top priorities for next year by over 30% of respondents. 

If there’s one big takeaway from 2020, it’s the importance of responding to change quickly, as so many businesses did when, for example, they moved to remote work. 

That imperative is leading to an increased focus on real-time reporting. When executives have instant insight into a company’s financial status, businesses can make informed decisions quickly. 

Airbase is excited to play a role in helping growing companies thrive in 2021. If you’d like to learn more about how our spend management platform can help, let’s talk

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Laura Slauson
Laura Slauson
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About Airbase

Airbase offers a one platform solution to manage all non-payroll spend. It provides oversight and control over spending with real-time reporting and automatic syncing directly to your general ledger. Control all paymentsphysical cards, virtual cards, ACH, and checks – from one place. Close faster. Empower employees. Control spend.

To learn more about Airbase, contact us for a product demo.