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Singapore CFOs see data security, privacy as top challenges in corporate reporting: EY poll

MANAGING data security and privacy are the top challenges chief financial officers (CFOs) in Singapore say they face in corporate reporting, as developments in data handling stir uncertainty among global and Singapore CFOs alike.

Around 61 per cent of CFOs in Singapore surveyed cited the challenges above as significant, against 56 per cent of global respondents, according to a recent survey by financial consultancy Ernst & Young (EY), which detailed the challenges faced by top CFOs in corporate reporting.

The global survey of more than 1,000 CFOs also found 63 per cent of Singapore finance chiefs say concerns over security and compliance risks of the cloud are seen as major barriers to technology transformation and the implementation of innovative new technologies, against 49 per cent of global responses.

Just over half of Singapore respondents also said that a major barrier to implementing new technologies was the board's view of IT transformation being "too costly and risky".

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In data governance, nearly all Singapore CFOs stated the top challenge was adjusting their approach to mitigate the impact of new business ventures, acquisitions, products and technology.

Ninety-one per cent of Singapore CFOs found it "very challenging" or "somewhat challenging" to actively navigate data flows across different jurisdictions' privacy laws, and 93 per cent also said that assessing the different security standards for data centres versus cloud computing was a key challenge to data protection, privacy and compliance.

"There is a high level of uncertainty and inconsistent approaches among the finance community on how to approach the issues of data security and privacy. The pace at which the corporate world and companies are generating data is unprecedented and the pooling of massive data lakes leads to questions around the protection, uploading and use of the data," said Joon-Arn Chiang, EY's Asia-Pacific Financial Accounting Advisory Services leader.

However, Singapore CFOs lead the way in adapting to changes in the face of evolving audit processes, with 95 per cent providing automated alerts to audit committees and boards about governance, risk and compliance issues, compared to the global average of 85 per cent.

Audit committees and boards are asking for more insights and information from corporate reporting on data protection and privacy, said EY.

Mr Chiang said that the value of automated alerts to boards and audit committees will be further enhanced when the content moves beyond governance and regulatory risks and encompasses operational and reputational matters.

"While this may not be within the ambit of a traditional CFO, the digital CFO managing large volumes of data can easily sift through the terabytes and provide insight via delivering quick alerts on items that impact the value of the organisation," he added.

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