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2020 Finance Trends: Industry Poll + Interview

SmartBrief readers share their top finance trends for 2020, plus an interview with the editor of SmartBrief for CFOs.

4 min read


2020 Finance Trends:  Industry Poll + Interview


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In December 2019, SmartBrief polled readers from four trending newsletters to gauge their priorities for 2020. Accompanying our poll results is an interview with SmartBrief for CFOs’ editor, Jon O’Neill, on his outlook for the coming year.


We recently ran an end-of-year poll in SmartBrief for CFOs asking readers about their top priorities for 2020. What finance trend do you personally think people should care about most for the year and why?

I think that technology, automation and cybersecurity should command a great deal of attention from finance professionals in 2020, as it has in the past year, because it is having a significant impact across the industry. The rapid pace of technological change is creating a number of opportunities, but it also will present a new set of challenges in 2020 and beyond as AI and other tools evolve further, automation ramps up and cybersecurity issues come more and more to the forefront.

Unsurprisingly, “risk management” received the highest number of votes in our poll. What was one big risk management blunder of 2019 and what can finance professionals learn from it?

I don’t know if you can point out one single mistake, but staying with the theme of technology, there was an article in The Wall Street Journal in December that explored how financial industry risk managers were still trying to analyze the downsides of the increased use of AI throughout the industry.

According to the article, AI use in consumer lending, transaction monitoring and other areas are requiring this generation of risk managers to understand how algorithms work and identify potential pitfalls with how the technology is applied. This is a key issue that leaders will need to continue to address if they want to keep pace with the changing technology that is forming a new foundation for the finance industry.

Only 6% of respondents reported that mobile apps were a priority for them in 2020. With industry newcomers like Robinhood disrupting traditional models, do you think more attention should be given to this topic?

Yes. Apps are now an integral part of life for most of us, and that certainly extends to how we track and manage our finances. Fintechs — such as Robinhood and a number of others — are changing everything from banking to stock purchases and cryptocurrency, often times much more accessible to everyone. It doesn’t appear as if this trend can be ignored going forward.


Based on your experience as editor of SmartBrief for CFOs, what kinds of articles do readers seem to prefer? Additionally, which news outlets do you consistently look to for quality finance content?

The readers of SmartBrief for CFOs want to stay on top of big economic trends and issues, such as the jobs report, news about tariffs and trade and also updates on what leading financial companies are doing. They also want the latest regulatory updates and news about others in their profession. The go-to sources include Bloomberg, Reuters, Business Insider, Forbes, CNBC, Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal, along with more specific publications such as CFO Magazine.

In your opinion, which CFOs should people be watching right now? In other words, who is doing the most in terms of disruption, transformation, leadership or efficiency?

Well, it’s hard to say who will have the next great run as a CFO, but we’re obviously keeping an eye on people such as Dave Stephenson, who came from Amazon to help orchestrate the much-anticipated and (likely) nontraditional IPO for Airbnb that’s scheduled this year. We’ll also watch major players such as Jennifer Piepszak, who is CFO at JPMorgan and as such a huge trendsetter, along with other potential influencers such as Spencer Neumann at Netflix and Jason Warnick, formerly of Amazon and now at Robinhood.

Lastly, what was your highlight of 2019 for SmartBrief for CFOs?

My highlight for 2019 was seeing how hard CFOs were working to stay ahead of the power curve when it comes to technology, AI and other automation trends that have the power to influence the financial industry in ways that could not have been imagined even five years ago. From what I have seen, savvy CFOs are making this a priority in order to be ready for a fast-changing future.


If you enjoyed this peek into 2020, subscribe to SmartBrief for CFOs for finance content personally curated by Jon, five days a week. For more quality news coverage, you can subscribe to any of SmartBrief’s 275+ free newsletters.


Poll results based on data from 437 respondents.

  • Risk management – 152 votes
  • AI/Machine learning & cybersecurity – 113 votes
  • Cloud computing – 66 votes
  • Blockchain – 49 votes
  • Credit card landscape – 31 votes
  • Mobile apps – 26 votes