On the frontline: Michael Metcalf, outgoing CFO of Burberry

This has been the case for Michael Metcalf, the chief operating and financial officer at fashion chain Burberry. After being in the role for five years, he has decided that it is time to move on.

Although he has yet to say where he is moving to, or even whether he has something planned, the chartered accountant wants to step away from the role of financial director and has put himself onto the market for a position as a chief executive.

If successful, it will not be the first time that Metcalf has headed up a company. He has already held the chief executive position at Thorn EMI Rentals Division, between 1985 and 1996, and then at Thorn plc between 1996 and 1998. And it seems the lure of such a position of power is again too much to resist.

‘I have had five extremely challenging and enjoyable years at Burberry, and am immensely proud of the progress that has been made by everyone in the company,’ says Metcalf. ‘But after careful reflection, I have come to the decision that now is a good time to look for new opportunities outside the group.’

Despite the announcement, Metcalf will not leave his current position until the end of March next year, giving him ample time to look for new positions as well as handling his current duties.

Burberry is part of FTSE-100 group GUS plc, a company that owns several well-known businesses including catalogue retail chain Argos and credit information company Experian. But it is perhaps the Burberry name that has received the most exposure in recent years. Now it is almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing someone sporting a a scarf, cap or bag bearing the infamous check design that is the company’s trademark.

Metcalf’s five-year tenure has certainly not been without incident. During his time as chief operating and financial officer he has overseen the company’s flotation on the stock market and a transformation that saw its fashion brand become one of the most popular in the country.

He has instilled many financial controls and disciplines in the company, which at the time was a disparate international business without many of the systems you might expect.

Metcalf was also responsible for setting up much of the infrastructure of the new group, integrating new acquisitions and bringing the distributor function in-house. He also negotiated many licensing deals overseas, including Japan and Spain.

The move from financial director to chief executive is becoming an ever more commonplace transition. A recent survey by recruitment firm Hanover Fox found that 41% of FTSE-100 chief executives now have a background in accountancy or finance. This figure has leapt sharply since the survey was last undertaken in 1996, when only 24% of CEOs had an accountancy background. Metcalf, it seems, is not the only one who enjoys the additional responsibility that the role of chief executive demands.

‘I’m looking for a different environment and broader responsibility, in particular being a CEO,’ says Metcalf. ‘I enjoyed being one for six or seven years and it is something I have hankered after.’

With his breadth of experience it shouldn’t be a problem.

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