Back in fashion – Burberry’s CFO

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.

What’s happened?
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.

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