Awards 2005: personality of the year – Neil Wood

With the jubilant words of International Olympic Committee president Jacques
Rogge on 6 July now a distant memory, the real work is now beginning for the
London 2012 bid team and its bid finance director Neil Wood.

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After successfully guiding his bid team since his appointment at the end of
2003, Wood took on the role of interim FD of the London Organising Committee of
the Olympic Games in the middle of 2005.

As the organisation’s top finance professional, he will have a challenging
job on his hands. From a team of only 50 people, he will have to expand the
finance department threefold in 2009/10 to turn LOCOG into the equivalent of a
FTSE100 company.

Wood will also have to handle a budget of about £1.5bn, while keeping in
touch with the work of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which will construct the
of the games and spend more than £2bn in the build-up to the showpiece. But what
better fillip could he have than Accountancy Age readers voting him their
Personality of the Year for 2005?

At 40, Wood is a young FD with a great deal of responsibility on his somewhat
slightly built shoulders, but he has been extremely enthusiastic about his time
on secondment from Deloitte.

While he has no professional background in sport, he is an all-rounder with
pastimes including clay-pigeon shooting, scuba diving, running and squash. To
top it all off, he is a qualified RFU rugby coach.

Wood had spent most of his career in practice, starting off at Andersen in
its audit practice in 1992 then working on large restructuring projects in the
electricity and energy sector. He returned to the firm in 1997 after time abroad
and was part of the team that transferred to Deloitte in 2002.

When he received the offer to become Olympic bid FD, it was not something he
would have ever turned down. ‘The chance to be part of the bid for the Olympics
is hugely exciting and unique. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,’ he said.

He was not daunted by his first major role in the business arena. ‘For me,
this will be business as usual,’ he said. Wood brought his experience of working
on large, discrete projects to bear in this FD role and said the challenge would
be ‘in the running of a complex project’, something he had been doing for years.

As the FD of the bid team, Wood controlled the finances of a business
that was only set up in August 2003 and which closed down, regardless of the
outcome of the bid, in July this year.

Working alongside bid team members, including the formidable Barbara Cassani,
former bid chairman, and chief executive Keith Mills, Wood commanded permanent
staff numbers of 50 people, plus around 20 consultants.

Even before the IOC plumped for London, Wood was confident that the bid would
be successful, that London 2012 would be wound up and a new company would be
formed to ensure that the plans set out in the bid document ­- the stadiums,
roads, Olympic village, logistics, transport and so on -­ were ready by 2012.

The bid had a budget of £20m with the funds coming from the public coffers ­
£10m from the London Development Agency and £10m from the Treasury, via the
Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Wood knew that using this amount of the taxpayers’ money would put London
2012’s activities under intense scrutiny.

An extremely detailed budget was put forward for the bid, but it was up to
the bid team to decide how the money would be deployed. To ensure that money was
spent wisely and could be accounted for, Wood stamped his mark on the financial
controls from the very beginning.

‘The day I arrived I put in all the normal business controls including the
segregation and delegation of duties. No one can spend money without a more
senior person or me signing it off. And we have set the thresholds very low,’ he
told Accountancy Age at the time.

These measures were not just to satisfy the Treasury and the public at large,
but to win the approval of the International Olympic Committee, which has very
strict guidelines. ‘All monies spent must be traceable to any one individual,’
Wood said.

In terms of preparing the bid, Wood was involved in all stages leading up to
July 2005. This began with the completion of an applicant questionnaire made up
of 25 pages and 25 fundamental questions about venues, money, hotels and
transport facilities.

When the shortlist of cities was drawn up on 18 May 2004 and London made it,
Wood and the team had to begin preparing a candidate file, which ran to around
500 pages, including architectural drawings, detailed financial information,
regeneration plans, underlying economics and underlying philosophy. This was
submitted by 14 November 2004. In spring this year, an evaluation group from the
IOC came to London to interrogate the bid and reported back in May.

On 6 July 2005, each city was given an hour to make a presentation to the
IOC’s 106 members, who then voted to choose a winner. The rest is history. Wood
was at the heart of its success as it contained large amounts of financial
Economics and regeneration were the key to winning the bid, according to Wood.

‘The economics of the infrastructure must be credible. All decisions we take
have a financial impact,’ he has said. Wood then had to put together a legacy
financial report, including transport needs, decisions on whether to upgrade
existing infrastructure or to build from scratch, for example.

Some may say that seven years is more than enough time to plan for the Games,
but Wood and his staff know what they have to do to match and surpass previous

More importantly, they know that to match the quality of the bid will not be
enough. Wood will have to successfully manage and deliver a viable Games that
will leave a financial ­ as well as a memorable sporting ­ achievement for yea
rs to come.

If he can achieve this, London and Neil Wood’s 2012 legacy will last for many
years to come.

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