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The finance function has seen considerable change over recent years. Traditional ways of handling datasets and business spending have evolved from tedious Excel sheets to cutting-edge technology, saving businesses time and money (and a whole lot of work). 

And hand-in-hand, we’re seeing the continual evolution of the CFO, a role that was once focused on data and making sure the books are in order. But today, finance leaders are fast becoming essential partners to the CEO, providing data and insights that form the basis of future business strategy.

At Beyond London, we sat down with Johnny Bray, CFO at Vistair, to talk about the importance of the evolving CFO and how he and his team have modernised Vistair’s finance function, with the help of Pleo. While you’re here, why not watch the entire interview?

What has the Vistair journey looked like so far?

Vistair was initially founded in 1997, fast-forward to now and a lot has changed along the way. They accelerated very quickly since transforming into a tech company in the last five years. 

“We develop software, we’re a bit like Pleo,” Johnny told us. “Huge data sets exist in aviation and people in the moment when their engine is on fire or something else has gone wrong with the plane, they need the right bits of information very quickly, and they don't want to be sifting through huge datasets. So, that's what we do, wherever those people are in the world.”

“Finance is often looked at as being quite conservative, but aviation is really, really conservative. They don’t want to be taking pilots out of planes, they don't want to be taking humans out of their systems,” Johnny said.

Embracing the future of digital transformation

Pleo was part of Vistair’s journey to becoming a fully digital company after adopting our tool over two years ago. “It’s absolutely been a part of our digital transformation,” Johnny explained. 

“The expenses system we had before was an Excel spreadsheet that you downloaded from a shared drive which you filled in, typed in, printed out, handed over for signature and paper and handed over to someone else for signature — it was all very very slow and painful,” Johnny said. “With Pleo, people make a payment on their card, claim an expense and take a photo of the receipt and they’re done.”

With automation, comes greater spending visibility 

Manually dealing with business spend is tedious work. It eats into teams’ valuable time and can also end up costing companies a whole lot of money. For Vistair, implementing Pleo has meant spending visibility like never before, as well as accurate data that helps its finance teams make better spending decisions for the whole business. 

“The visibility of expenditure, like reporting and data dashboards, just make it really easy to be able to see what's going on, day to day. It's a small team and our company philosophy and values is doing the right thing. We try to give as much trust to the people all around the organisation, rather than put strict controls in place,” Johnny said. 

“As a growing company, we have the opportunity to make mistakes. But being able to see things very quickly means mistakes don't get out of hand and that's the way we run our business and it works very well for us. Pleo provides us with the monitoring controls so we can see what has happened as soon as it happens, and if something has happened that surprised us or we feel we need to pick up and take action with.”

Why digital transformation is for every business 

“Change is now a constant, it isn’t something you do once and it's done. Technology is moving so fast, competition is out there, all trying to get better too, so all of us need to be open to change and looking for changes, and looking to the next change after that,” Johnny advises. 

“Finance really does need to catch up with a lot of those technologies. It's an industry that is peppered with people who are typing things into computers and the things they are typing into their computers are inevitably from a PDF which has been generated by another computer somewhere else. How is that a modern way of doing business?”

The future of work is ever-changing and evolution is happening quicker than ever as more technologies enter the workplace, from automation to artificial intelligence. It’s crucial you don’t get left behind. 

For more Beyond content exploring the future of fintech, head over to our on-demand page and catch up on panels from industry leaders. 

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