The FTSE 100 has at last received a touch of glamour with the addition last week of Burberry to its ranks. That brings Stacey Cartwright, Burberry’s chief financial officer, into the elite group of finance directors who help run Britain’s biggest businesses. That means the cadre of pinstriped, middle aged men who dominate this particular part of business will at last have another woman among their ranks.
In short, Thomson Reuters has delisted, leaving room for another company to enter the FTSE 100. Next in line is Burberry, the luxury fashion brand, and that brings Cartwright, the company’s CFO, into the top flight.
Female FDs at this level are in short supply. In fact Cartwright’s arrival in the 100 brings the number of female FDs operating at this level to a grand total of four. She joins Jann Brown of Cairn Energy, 3i’s Julia Wilson and Evelyn Bourke of Friends Provident.
Does this make it especially difficult for Cartwright to operate? Does she face added pressures because she’s a woman? The safe money is on the fact that she’s probably given the issue only passing thought.
She will know she’s in a minority but will just focus on doing her job. And there she has an advantage. For she joins the FTSE 100 as part of a team, alongside CEO Angela Arendt, that has overhauled the company, dragging it back to prosperity after leather patches on the elbows had started to wear out.
The days when the fashion house was associated with poor financial performance and the chav fascination for Burberry baseball caps seem to be as far in the past as Humphrey Bogart wearing a Burberry mac in Casablanca.
Cartwright, if you’ll excuse the expression, is less well worn. She’s part of the latest season of executives that have put the gloss back on the brand.
She joined Burberry in March 2004, leaving the online bank egg, and spent £50m sorting out the retailer’s IT platforms. Arendt took over in 2006 as CEO and Cartwright was immediately involved in implementing her change programme for the company. They moved hard and fast, refining strategy and building the financial base to support it. Burberry now turns over £1.2bn, though Cartwright is quoted saying things are “very uncertain”.
What happens next?
Many luxury brands have weathered the recession well. But Cartwright will have to be as impervious to complacency as the company’s macs are to rain. There will be more attention on the company now it’s in the FTSE 100. The press will want more stories, the stock may well see more activity.
But those who meet Cartwright say they come away feeling they’ve been impressed by someone who clearly knows her job, and in detail. They leave the room a fan of the person as well as of the technician. Because, they say, she is honest no flannel. And if anything is going to please the analysts that chivvy away at the CFOs of big corporates, it is honesty. But she will have to be tough. The hours are long and the demands strenuous. At the moment though, being in the top flight looks like a good fit for Cartwright.
The CEO's name is in fact Angela Ahrendts, not Angela Arendt as stated.
Posted by: RIB, 18 Sep 2009 | 00:00
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