Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Management

The role of the finance team in recovery

2 July 2020

David Smyth, CFO at Roomex, the platform for managing construction travel spend, on how finance departments can lead their companies through these challenging times.

What are the key challenges finance departments are facing right now?

The world is changing dramatically and in ways that are hard to predict. Finance departments are overwhelmed with both the volume of work they have and managing the stress of falling revenues.

The general level of risk is also heightened, with most CFOs looking to create plans with fewer people, budget cuts and economic uncertainty. But your business is looking to the finance team for clear guidance on what it can afford, what could be cut and how to rebalance.

What advice do you have for finance teams facing these challenges?

First, make sure you have a full under-standing of the major functions across the business. Use this time to strengthen relationships, truly understand various strategies, challenges and priorities.

Second, ask yourself the following questions: where are we now? Where do we want to get to? How do we get there? How will we know if we are getting there? Sounds simple, but it will provide you with a clear framework for your plan.

Third, develop strong financial partners. Partnerships allow for more specialisation and allow you to focus on your core activities and mitigate risks.

Amid the pandemic, we developed two strategic partnerships that created growth and opportunities for us while addressing some customer challenges. We partnered with EML to get our new expense management solution, RoomexPay, to market to support key workers travelling during these times. We also worked with Affiniture to increase credit payment periods and reduce pressure on customers.

Fourth, relax and think long term. Yes, this pandemic has changed the way we do business, especially in construction and in travel. But if you think clearly, you will be able to identify innovative, intelligent and growth-oriented measures.

How do you see travel for the construction industry changing post covid-19?

Construction travel, like all domestic business travel, will be completely different. Hotel availability has reduced, so if your team is used to a particular chain, be flexible. Contactless payment is on the rise, so it could be helpful arming your staff with prepaid cards like RoomexPay. They offer little risk, as the amount of money accessible on each card is directed by the finance team.

I also see travel moving to a centralised platform. Many firms manage travel through multiple leisure sites, Excel sheets and notebooks. It’s hard to get a hold of what you’re spending and why.

I also foresee, as budgets tighten, compliance with travel policies will be even more essential. Travel policies have always been very important, but now, on top of the assistance they provide to adhering to budgets, all policies will require editing due to the complete change in travel procedure as an effect of the pandemic. Ensure your travel policies have been updated from a cost, risk and duty-of-care perspective.

Roomex has been providing assistance to construction companies as they get back on the road – on everything from sourcing, negotiating and managing safe, clean, flexible accommodation to helping them remotely roll out pre-paid expense cards and expense management platform to travelling workforces. Get in touch at roomex.com