In a company, there are many coexisting functional areas that make business work properly: management, finances, administration, production/operations, quality, marketing, human resources, project management, process, logistics. In order to reach its organizational objectives, it is vital that all these areas have the same purpose and business strategy.
Next, we are going to delve into finances: what are they, which are their main functions, their biggest challenges, etc.
What is the Financial Area of a company?
Every company requires an effective Financial Area correctly organized to manage the finances of the company as well as its budget. This area is in charge of assuring the economic viability of the company since it controls the accounting balances and their results. The management of financial resources in a company is a complex task that will determine the investment in human, material, symbolic or social capital funds. Next, we will provide further information about this large area.
Short history about its beginning and development through time
From the beginning of time, humanity has needed to use certain tools to regulate the management of resources so that they could be sure that their needs were fulfilled. What started as a concern for hunting or product trading, with the passing of time, turned into complex commercialization of goods or services, production areas, manufacturing, and goods removal.
Italian Renaissance (XV and XVI centuries) meant an acceleration in goods selling, especially by sea or land. This way, in big commercial Italian cities such as Venice or Florence, which competed for becoming a commercial monopoly, revealing "accounting" records began to emerge on the part of famous bankers or business people, which contained what they had bought, their expenses and their purchases. For instance, in 1494, in Venice, Francisco di Luca Paciolo published his book called "Summa de Arithmetica" and, in one of its chapters named "Accounts and Bookkeeping", he describes, for the first time, the system we now know as double-entry system which constitutes the basis for modern bookkeeping.
With the passing of time, Bookkeeping has suffered several changes in order to adapt to the new circumstances in different economic models as well as in the type of industries that arose. This way, specialized financial areas were created eventually for each particular industry: one for all basic or extractive activities such as agriculture, stockbreeding, mining and oil, among others; another one for manufacturing or transforming industries and another one for activities related to commerce and services such as banks.
Structure of the area and functions of its subsections
The Finance Department should have adequate structure and organization according to the business model proposed. Therefore, it is divided into subsections that carry out specific functions. In general terms, the accounting area has to assure the internal correct functioning of the department as well as appropriate coordination with the other functional areas in the company. It is very important that the quantified information this area works with is reliable; otherwise, it will be very difficult to take accurate decisions and solve problems. The area is organized hierarchically as follows:
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This person is in charge of the employees of the Department and is the consultant of the Director general. His/her responsibilities involve that he/she establishes the policies and financial procedures that the company will apply.
- Internal audit. It provides information and judgment elements to the audit committee of the company with the aim of improving the functioning of the company by increasing its benefits. It can also complement the work of external auditors.
- Financial controller. This person manages and plans follow-ups of the assets of the company; therefore, he/she can make an economic analysis to attract or make new investments, measure profitability in profit centers or business units and even analyze purchases. This way, the controller is also authorized to perform other actions such as legalizing budgets, making predictions of benefits and cash, and assigning or distributing general expenses. Other functions he/she is in charge of involve analyzing cost deviation, keeping both internal and external bookkeeping of the company, for which he/she has to process data through applications; he/she also can perform measurements according to some parameters and create computer reports. Finally, he/she is in charge of assessing the economic risk of the business: that is to say, the possibility that investments do not generate the expected surplus.
- Fiscal section. It is in charge of some processes such as calculating taxes to be paid and elaborating a fiscal plan to take advantage of the opportunities provided by legislation. It is not always present in companies because its tasks can be performed by external experts in the field.
- The Treasury subsection is one of the most differentiated financial functions and one of the easiest to understand. Basically, it is in charge of developing and analyzing financial relationships. Among its functions, we can find: planning fund use and keeping a relationship with the suppliers of that resources as well as with banks and other lending entities. Moreover, it makes decisions that involve investment funds and deferred payments; it also manages portfolios in the making of investments, analyzes credit policies, authorizes special credits and hires insurance policies. Its main function is the reception and custody of liquid assets; that is to say, it must prevent financial risk, which is directly related to the financing structure.
In other words, Finances has four main responsibilities:
- Monitoring and planning, which include the accounting information system.
- Functions derived from the management, control, and protection of the treasury and other liquid assets.
- Several financial functions or of an unusual type. For instance, loan granting or special concessions.
- Functions derived from secondary services under the control of the financial department. For instance, the management of property costs associated with the operations.
Therefore, we can say that its functions can be grouped into: planning, advicing and decision making. In the first one, we can find budget creation and design of financial action diagrams. In the second one, funds movement is strategically planned and assessed in order to advise managers on the task of making decisions. And, finally, in the third one, resources are provided to reach the objectives set beforehand. Additional functions can be, for instance, give advice on which way of investing is better to produce a surplus or manage certain purchases, update insurance policies and deposits and prevent the impact that certain external factors may have on the economy of the company.
Main challenges faced in the Financial Area
Sometimes, companies may encounter problems related to the management of the total capital. These problems arise more frequently in startups, in companies that do not have adequate organizational planning, or in companies that despite being divided into the correct areas do not have a functional or a suitable team.
One of the most frequent challenges the area must face is that it does not have enough money available when the company begins to operate. It must be remembered that profitability is not immediate; in fact, two years may pass until you earn a healthy profit, so you must have a good amortization plan to get through this period.
Another problem very common that emerging companies deal with is trying to defeat the competition by offering their products at a lower price; this is not very effective because their competitors already have a long-term relationship with their suppliers, to whom they sell large amounts at a low cost. The best strategy is to set a price for your products or services to a fair market value and try to beat the competition by selling high-quality products.
In addition, companies usually have to deal with late payments so they find it difficult to fulfill their contractual obligations. The solution to this problem is to take out a loan greater than usual so that you can be prepared to address the issues that may arise due to delays in payment. Companies also have problems with the number of people they have to hire; in this case, it is vital that you assess costs and profits according to the time needed for each activity.
Finally, it is highly recommended that information is properly stored in programs that are updated over time. Otherwise, if we talk about a big company, for instance, and a customer buys something in installments, the information about pending payments could be lost and you may not do a follow-up of it. Also, information can be scattered, not be accessible, or not be right to do an assessment. Therefore, it is important that the database is well organized and available to the people in charge, as well as to be handled responsibly. Moreover, you have to make sure that the software you use is able to integrate data quickly and effectively.
Tips to have in mind when planning the Financial Area of a company
The first tip we can give you to form an effective financial team is to plan it consciously according to the business model of your company, its productive capacity and its global scale. You should also be sure that the team members chosen are truly qualified for the position (and by this, we mean that it has been proved that hiring people because you are close with them and not for their abilities ends up damaging your company eventually.) Moreover, it is also essential to offer regular accounting training for the members of the area in relation to new technologies or by investing in specialization courses, since general training also helps you not to be short on staff.
At the same time, it is suggested that the area uses up-to-date accounting systems so that they can process data quickly, faithfully and effectively. It is also very important to carry out batch processing so that work does not rely on particular bills or receipts. Moreover, a system must be created to combine and centralize all documents to be processed together just once, in order for you to save time and effort. The use of process metrics will allow you to compare the company's previous and current activity and establish a reference point on which your team can rely. Some of the metrics you can use are accounting relationships, cycle time, number of documents in process, etc.
We also suggest that accountants deliver balance sheet reports regularly so that you have a more accurate perspective of the economic functioning of the company and can make adequate predictions.
Finally, it is advisable for owners of small and middle enterprises to separate personal accounts from the company's accounts; this means that the person in charge should have an external account to have better control over income and expenditure. At the same time, the manager should set a fixed salary and maintain that amount so that the accounts do not lose balance.
The Financial Area of a company is one of the most important parts of it since it has a great impact on the fund movements of the company; here is where big decisions will be made about resource expenditure, making a profit and the balance sheet as well as about the accounting register of these processes.
Companies should work with reliable and accurate data which should be processed correctly by using adequate software tools. Therefore, it is very important to constantly think about your employees and their training. Moreover, it is vital for management that the accountant delivers regular accounting sheet reports and that he/she uses reliable metrics and parameters. The better the quality of the overview, the faster will be the analysis and the better will be the resolution of problems. All this should be done so that you can guarantee the excellent functioning of the company.
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