This week Sydney is welcoming the 2018 World Congress of Accountants. At this global gathering, speakers will be talking about the things that keep chief financial officers (CFOs) awake at night as they ponder the future of their organisations.

This year, the main themes of WCOA are trust, ethics, diversity, sustainability and new technologies. These themes aren’t unique to the accounting and audit profession – every organisation is grappling with them. And while like me, my peers recognise the enormous rewards from embracing technology in our organisations, it is becoming clearer by the day that this also brings risk.

CFOs, as custodians of the interests of shareholders or stakeholders in an organisation, are responsible for managing this risk as it affects financial integrity. The rapid advance of technology in recent years has elevated data to new prominence. It’s become a currency that’s both the genesis and consequence of every customer or stakeholder interaction. The better the insights you derive from data, the better your organisation will meet the needs of its target market. This in turn generates new, more valuable data in a self-fulfilling cycle.

This data is, of course, only as good as how well or how much it can benefit your organisation. Making the most of it in a rapidly changing environment is increasingly dependent on combining it with another organisation’s data. This can deliver new levels of granularity in the actionable insights you’re after to take your organisation to the next level of success.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that until now, combining your data relied on rudimentary and flawed methods of sharing. On the more benign end of the scale, old-style data sharing is a slow process. It’s inefficient on a number of levels, and these two issues make it expensive. So, on this basis alone, it’s not an ideal choice. On the other end of the scale, data sharing can open your organisation up to data theft and breaches for the simple reason that you no longer have control over how it’s protected the instant it enters a data-sharing arrangement. From a fiduciary perspective, as a CFO, you’ve already fallen at the first gate by placing an important company asset in an unnecessarily vulnerable position.

If your data is stolen in a data-sharing exercise, your fiduciary woes will be compounded by a raft of other expensive and time-consuming consequences. These may range from fines and possible remediation of the accounts of customers if they suffer any financial losses to painful reputational damage that can result in both customers and shareholders abandoning you. At the very least, your organisation will face hefty costs to identify the point of breach and to fix the problem, and substantial management time and energy to do so.

In the face of these obstacles, the simple answer might be just to rule out using your data in any way that could possibly compromise its security. But this isn’t feasible. The reality is that your data is a valuable company asset that could and should be used to unveil insights to make a meaningful difference to your organisation’s fortunes. Once again, as a CFO, you have a responsibility to apply your assets for strategic benefit.

At IXUP we recognised some years ago that this would become an important issue for CFOs and other leaders. And in an environment of growing regulation around how data is used, it has become even more so. This is why we developed our secure data collaboration software. We knew that like most things, prevention is always better and less painful than the cure, so we developed a solution at the source, rather than a band-aid fix at the end. With IXUP, data is never shared, and protection is ensured by unique encryption that can only be unlocked by the data owner with their own secure key.

It ticks all the boxes for a CFO:

  • the security and protection of your company’s most valuable asset – your data – remains completely under your control at all times;
  • it’s a fast and effective option to securing insights in a world where speed gives you a competitive edge;
  • it offers unparalleled detail in your insights because the data doesn’t need to be anonymised – no other party in your data collaboration can ever see the underlying data, including the personal details of customers or stakeholders;
  • it meets the stringent requirement of regulators when it comes to privacy and data protection; and
  • it allows you to employ your assets ethically and responsibly for the benefit of your organisation.

These are all very important reasons to rethink how you are using your data as part of your operational strategy. As CFO you have a responsibility to do this. You also have a duty of care to protect that information. IXUP’s secure data collaboration solution ensures you can do both.

David Bonham is Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of IXUP, an Australian software technology company.