7 ways to handle the demands of your new group FD


Modern Financial Directors spend some of their time in a new post trying to harvest the wind. Their role is changing, probably more so than any other executive post.

On one hand, they have rocketing financial data capabilities. This includes better analysis software and techniques, greater connectivity to streamline systems, cloud computing for efficiencies and rapidly growing automation to speed up processes.

On the other hand, they are dealing with a fractious and mixed economy, the need to find ever leaner business methods and pressure to keep even tighter controls on the purse strings.

This means their focus has gone from balance sheets and compliance to meeting new predictive functions and instigating change on a daily basis.

It also means someone new must quickly assimilate the possibilities and potential changes, not just forensically examining whatever they have inherited from a predecessor.

1. Be ready

If your group of companies or multi-site business has brought in a new FD, then you might need to be ready to face tough times while the new person is bedded in and can inform business strategy from a strong position.

How do you cope with the interim period of upheaval, and the demands of the new person in the role? Well for starters, be aware of the issue and make preparations, including bringing in additional staff if need be, to give the new person chance to gather in depth intel.

2. Give them learning space

There is a growing trend towards filling vacant FD posts with people who are exceptional accountants who can expertly handle company finances but who have no business experience in that sector.

Slightly different but a good illustration of this is the recent appointment of MD Jill McDonald at British stalwart Marks & Spencer. She joined the fashion and food giant from largely unrelated experience at car parts and bikes chain Halfords, having previously worked at British Airways. House of Fraser’s new Chief Executive Alex Williamson had never even worked in retail before.

One of the first things to recognise as a company is that your new FD may have the acumen and insights to control corporate finances, but in order to become fully up to speed on how that informs business strategy, they may face a substantial learning curve. And at the end of it, their perspective of what the company needs to improve and grow its financial health may arise from a position of being an informed outsider in terms of the business sector you trade in.

3. Managing staff expectations

The new FD must lead and develop an existing team in the accounts and finance department. This new broom may bring strong and advanced methodology that can shake up a few employees still entrenched in old school methods.

This impact may actually be felt company wide. Ensuring companies meet the ever more stringent regulatory requirements of all statutory bodies can mean tough decisions for the FD. This could all mean managing the expectations of the existing staff properly, and getting them engaged and responsive to changes.

4. Share the vision at all levels

Staff and customers need to know that the new FD is there to build robust financial systems, keep the company compliant and provide greater opportunities for future growth.

Some of the cost cutting or austerity they impose – or measurement and controls they introduce – may be resented unless all stakeholders have a good vision of the big picture.

5. Executive and Board Room bonding

The same applies to the whole management team and board. The role of FD has come a long way since the firm’s accountants were number crunching in the side lines.

They now underpin and inform business control and growth, so the working relationship they have with the MD and other decision makers needs to be moulded from day one.

6. Get team dynamics right

One way to make sure that the new group FD fits swiftly and seamlessly into their role is to ensure that all the team members are in place to enable them to focus on crucial functions. This includes flexible and versatile staff who are ready to face the demands of the new FD and implement changes and improvements.

7. Plug gaps

If you have gaps in your finance team skill sets or attributes, give us a call. Make sure your next substantial appointee has the most fertile ground possible for building profitable outcomes. This can also include hiring interim staff to smooth out and support transitions and transformations.

For further advice and to find out more about jobs in accountancy and finance, contact BTG Recruitment today.

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