Cash Flow in a Crisis: The Automated Revolution in Finance

Crisis recovery is top of the agenda for organisations today. But recovery plans need cash, and with interest rates threatening to rise imminently, it’s critical to unlock cash flow now to avoid the risk of collecting devalued cash from accounts when it’s too late. The race is on.

Cash flow came to a near stand-still across countries and industries as the pandemic hit, knocking GDP steadily downwards year-on-year. Of course, some industries were hit harder than others. In the UK, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) suffered more than any other group, with estimates from the Bank of England suggesting that of 2 million SMEs, the average company saw a 30% reduction in turnover growth and cash flows were broadly flat.

Meanwhile, in the US McKinsey predicts that industries like Arts, Entertainment, and Transportation could take up to 5 years to return to their pre-pandemic economic activity. On a global scale, only those companies fortunate enough to enjoy a steady stream of cash throughout the crisis, like supermarkets, are now largely unaffected by the global cash crunch.

Clearly, the global pandemic necessitated a complete shift in business operations, with many finance departments going into damage control as the economic impacts of the pandemic began to be felt. Cash flow dried up as customers had reduced access to cash, and government support was required. But now, as the vaccination rollout and economic recovery continues – and government support is withdrawn – it’s vital that companies act fast to free up cash from customers. Finance leaders are increasingly turning to Accounts Receivable (AR) automation for help.

Surviving, for Now…

Cash flow is the lifeblood of every company. So, in a bid to keep SMEs afloat and prevent economies from crumbling, global governments have provided financial support to protect those who were forced to accept deferred payments. Some large enterprises are pulling through of their own accord, but their time is limited too. Think back to the post 2008 financial crash, where many large companies managed to stay afloat until 2009-10, surviving the initial economic turmoil by riding on substantial cash reserves for a time before ultimately meeting their end as cash reserves ran out.

But both government support and cash reserves are drying up. Even as consumer spending and supply chains are recuperating, cash flow deficits remain an immediate threat, making cash flow recuperation the number one priority for businesses, finance leaders and governments.

Insolvency is a serious threat in the aftermath of the crisis, so it’s now or never for cash collection. How will companies free up the cash they need to survive now, and to thrive and compete in years to come?

Not only does AR innovation automate and secure cash flow, it can also cut manual activity by as much as 85%.

What Are CFOs Doing to Protect Their Companies?

One of the most precise, secure and future-proof ways of safeguarding cash flow is Accounts Receivable (AR) automation. Powered by unique intelligence solutions, it synthesises and analyses masses of information to pinpoint where and how cash flow can be freed. It’s also one of the quickest and simplest ways for companies to access more cash. A recent report by PYMNTS and American Express found that 88% of energy and advertising companies had significantly reduced Days Sales Outstanding thanks to AR automation, with 49% of all respondents also achieving lower delinquency rates.

Not only does AR innovation automate and secure cash flow, it can also cut manual activity by as much as 85%, freeing finance teams from spreadsheet-driven manual tasks so they can focus on critical value-adding transformational and strategic projects. An example of this comes from Veolia, the UK’s leader in environmental solutions, who boosted efficiency across processes and teams by 70% after implementing AR automation.

Take intelligent cash flow automation, slashed manual tasks, and consider how these factors could work together to transform business over time. Forbes predicts that by 2025, AI-driven enterprises will be up to 10 times more efficient than those who don’t take this route. In our case that’s because AR automation, when deployed over longer periods of time, can identify patterns in customer behaviours and act on them to automate credit management. The longer it runs, the more it learns and the better decisions it makes. Add to this its machine precision, which minimises error and delivers results that would probably be unattainable if delivered by humans, and you have a sustainable, perpetually improving solution for your AR woes.

Back to the now: it’s no wonder that innovative leaders facing today’s cash flow crisis are turning to tools like AR automation. They know that the future is automated, and that starting later is not an option.

Opportunities for Innovative CFOs

The move towards these technologies means the role of the CFO is morphing into a tech-meets-finance hybrid, as Mark Stead, CFO & COO at Moët Hennessy shines a light on in his recent appearance on The Show. In a business function where technology traditionally didn’t have a seat at the table, it’s now becoming a critical aspect that’s necessary to survive crises in the immediate term, and secure a competitive edge for the coming generations.

Savvy CFOs are searching for the best solutions. Cash flow is fundamental, and automating this function is the critical first step for finance leaders to see themselves out of this crisis, and onto a brighter future.


Companies come to BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) because their traditional manual accounting processes are not sustainable. BlackLine’s cloud-based solutions and market-leading customer service help companies move to modern accounting by unifying their data and processes, automating repetitive work, and driving accountability through visibility.

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