Jim Finlaw
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Lourdes Hernandez
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February 09, 2005
Outsourcing Finance Functions Can Improve Control Over Governance and Compliance, Accenture Survey Finds

NEW YORK; Feb. 9, 2005 – While concern over governance and compliance issues has been a barrier to the decision to outsource finance functions, many companies that have outsourced finance functions say that they have actually achieved greater control over their governance and compliance, according to a report released today by Accenture.

Accenture commissioned the survey of more than 200 executives to determine whether loss of control remained an issue for executives now that more stringent compliance standards – both mandated and voluntary – have become commonplace. The report was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Accenture Finance Solutions, an Accenture business that provides finance and accounting services to businesses and governments on an outsourced basis.

According to the findings, 51 percent of all respondents said the concern over the ability to maintain governance and compliance best practices stands – or has stood – in the way of a decision to outsource finance functions. However, 43 percent of the executives surveyed who had already outsourced a finance process said that outsourcing had actually improved the quality of governance and compliance at their organizations, and 44 percent of the same group stated that outsourcing had made no adverse impact on, and did not diminish the quality of, governance and compliance at their organizations.

Similarly, 73 percent of respondents who had already outsourced a finance process said that outsourcing increases the rigor of business processes because outsourced processes are better defined and documented, leading to greater clarity and accuracy of financial figures.

In addition, 56 percent of the respondents said outsourcing providers are better equipped to deal with frequent changes to tax codes and accounting rules, while also providing an increased level of visibility into processes and transparency of information.

“The findings show that executives increasingly believe that outsourcing of the finance function can enhance an organization’s ability to ensure effective governance and compliance,” said Barbara Duganier, vice president, Accenture Finance Solutions. “We believe that this significant shift in mindset is led by companies that have already outsourced their finance functions. As companies seek to achieve high performance in their business, we expect that trend to continue.”

Other key findings of the survey:

  • The overwhelming majority of respondents – 82 percent – said that the establishment of service-level agreements is essential for success. The agreement should define core finance processes and compliance requirements. Respondents also said clear lines of accountability were important, followed by instituting systematic status reports for outsourced processes, ensuring continuous evolution of the control framework, and administering penalties for compliance and governance lapses.

  • Respondents noted several areas of compliance and governance that are/would be of particular concern to them when outsourcing finance functions, including:
  • The quality of financial reporting provided to the management team by outsourcing service providers (64 percent)
  • Service provider’s knowledge of the respondent company’s unique requirements and controls to prevent fraud (60 percent)
  • Compliance with tax laws and accounting standards (50 percent)
  • Transparency of accounts for auditors’ visibility (36 percent)

  • While 46 percent of respondents believe that Sarbanes-Oxley and related compliance legislation has had limited or no impact on their company’s outsourcing of finance functions, 39 percent said such legislation and activism reduces the likelihood of companies outsourcing finance functions.

  • Respondents said the top finance functions that should be continued to managed internally include:
  • Budgeting and forecasting (81 percent)
  • Treasury and cash management (71 percent)
  • Information management and analysis (68 percent)
  • Financial risk management (66 percent)

Methodology
The online survey explored the views of 203 senior executives including chief finance officers, finance directors and vice presidents of finance, representing companies around the world with revenues ranging from less than $500 million to more than $8 billion. Respondents represent a wide variety of industries, including financial services, telecommunications, information technology services, automotive, professional services and government.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 100,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$13.67 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2004. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About Accenture Finance Solutions
Accenture is one of the world’s leading providers of finance and accounting business process outsourcing (BPO) services. With more than a decade of experience, Accenture Finance Solutions offers a complete suite of finance and accounting BPO services though its global network of delivery centers. Employing unique, proven assets and tools to reduce risk and increase the effectiveness of finance operations, Accenture Finance Solutions works closely with finance leaders to help them achieve high performance through quantifiable improvements in service, capabilities and cost. More information can be found at: www.accenture.com/financesolutions.

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