Do More With Less: How Finance Teams Innovate Through External Talent Benches

Emily Crookston
May 9, 2017
The expectations placed on finance teams by business operations are shifting. With the explosion of access to data, increased demands of new business models, and greater opportunities for digital transformation, there is more pressure than ever for finance to lead business performance. Recognizing this opportunity, many organizations have invested heavily in financial services. This is good news — but the increased investment comes with additional expectations as well. All too often, the job of turning this capacity into measurable value for the company falls on the CFO and the internal finance group, who may already be spread too thin. With such high stakes, finance teams are on the lookout for innovative ways to deliver top-notch service without busting the budget.

Finance Teams Face Challenges

Delivering on important business benchmarks under these restraints requires focus and a strategic approach supported by knowledge of untapped opportunities for growth. One such opportunity that CFOs have used to their advantage is building out their external talent benches. A Deloitte Finance Business Partnering Survey found that 83 percent of organizations want to increase the time they spend partnering with external business partners to conduct financial services. The contingent workforce and finance function appear to be made for each other. However, this does not come without challenges. While companies may hesitate to replace their whole finance department with contingent employees, having a deep bench of experts to tap into quickly can provide just the right amount of agility at the right time.

The Top Three Challenges Finance Teams Face:

Many finance teams face challenges that a professional and highly skilled external talent pool can help solve. Let’s look at some examples:

1. Becoming Leaner and More Responsive

Due to market and other factors, many companies have been forced to operate with compressed budgets. In many cases, tightening the belt on operating expenses has meant increased pressure on department heads to reduce fixed costs. Popular business models often state that when demand varies, so should fixed expenses, like labor costs. The flexibility of a talent pool with the agility to shift with organizational priorities, economic volatility and changing business strategies is just what the doctor ordered in this situation.

2. Obtaining Essential Soft skills

Workers’ preferences are shifting too. Have you noticed that it's becoming harder and harder to find talented full-time employees who have all of the soft skills necessary to work in a team setting? This is because the most talented individuals, especially in financial services, know that they are in high demand and technology opens the door to opportunities that were once unavailable in many geographic locations. Many top financial experts find that they don’t need to work full-time or they want the flexibility to spend time with their families during regular business hours. They may also prefer the independence of the gig economy. It is not uncommon these days to find the most talented workers choosing contingent work.

3. Leveraging the Current Finance Team

With so many opportunities available for outsourcing and offshoring finance function, there are many opportunities to assess the performance of your current finance team. Companies that don’t take the time to establish where and how the finance department could add value are leaving money on the table. An external talent partnership allows businesses to evaluate their current finance teams, make recommendations for improvements, and establish milestones that could be used to better develop talent in the future.

Projects That Challenge Bandwidth

Besides the above challenges, some smaller companies run up against bandwidth limitations when it comes to completing certain types of projects. Regulatory agencies, for example, may require projects be completed at certain times. Contingent talent resources can help with the usual project ebb and flow as well.
  • Pricing Strategy: Suppose you need to figure out what type of pricing strategy is most efficient for one of your product lines, your finance team may not have the time or the expertise to complete such a complex analysis.
  • Profitability Analysis: Companies with investors need to show overall efficiency and profitability. It may make sense from a credibility standpoint to bring in an external financial expert to run the analysis and write the report.
  • Post Merger Integration: Another difficult moment in a company’s history is during a merger or acquisition. Making the deal is difficult enough, but if you don’t have someone on your finance team with the right experience to lead the charge, the transition can drag on for months.

Benefits of Forming External Finance Partnerships

Using external financial experts allows companies to provide specialized or niche services without taking on the additional costs of hiring someone to cover what may only be an occasional demand for service. Access to a strong eternal talent bench gives businesses the capacity for better decision-making, tackling strategic initiatives and improved financial performance. Armed with a clear understanding of what activities drive value and generate revenue, managers can recruit external experts according to the strategy that fits their specific needs. There’s no limit to what your team can accomplish. By tapping into external resources you can provide your company with access to the same specialists who have worked with CFOs at top corporations. For more information on embracing agile workforces, check out the whitepaper below.  FBLS image

About the Author

Emily Crookston

Emily Crookston is the owner of the Pocket PhD ( and a contributing writer to the Catalant Technologies blog. She is a copywriter, former professor, and pocket resource for your business. When she’s not writing intensely, she’s most likely practicing yoga intensely.

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