Last night’s gala evening at the Natural History Museum gave the accountancy world a chance to applaud achievers from across the business and financial sectors at the Accountancy Age Awards for Excellence. Here we describe the achievements that gave our winners the edge.
The Judging Panel
Chairperson – Damian Wild, Editor, Accountancy Age
David Brooks, corporate finance partner, Grant Thornton
Teresa Graham, partner, Baker Tilly
Grenville Johnston, president, Scottish ICA
John Whiting, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Ken Wild, national director of assurance and advisory services, Deloitte & Touche
Peter Williams, finance director, Selfridges
Sarah Wood, finance director, Birmingham City Council, Specialist Judges
Andrew Sawers, editor, Financial Director – Annual Report & Accounts and Financial Director
Dick Phillips, partner, Phillips and Carpenter – Recruitment Advertisement
Penny Winters, divisional director, Parity Group – Recruitment Advertisement
Damien Harte, head of Channel 5 Interactive – Accounting Software Packages
Dennis Keeling, chief executive, BASDA – Accounting Software Packages
John Oates, national director of IT services, HLB Kidsons – Accounting Software Packages
Winner: Craig Bennett, The Caudwell Group
Managing a turnover of more than #1bn a year at telecoms company The Caudwell Group, finance director Craig Bennett has built his career on strong leadership skills and a go-ahead style in a tough corporate environment.
The Caudwell Group is now 13-years-old, and over the last decade the business has grown at a compound rate of 60% a year. It is showing few signs of slowing down.
Thirty-seven-year-old Bennett, a qualified management accountant, has played a central role in that success story, which this year has clinched Craig the top professional accolade of Financial Director of the Year in this year’s Accountancy Age Awards.
Drive and ambition have marked Craig out in a company whose founders John and Brian Caudwell have described themselves as harsh taskmasters.
Craig is now responsible for a team of almost 90 management and chartered accountants, and the company with its headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent, incorporates 14 companies in eight countries.
When Craig joined The Caudwell Group it had a staff of 25. It now employs 2,500.
The group includes the high street retail brand Phones 4u, which is set to open 25 more shops north of the border, and the UK’s largest independent service provider Singlepoint. It also takes in mobile phone repair company MPRC and distribution companies 20:20 Logistics and Dextra Accessories.
Craig left school after his A-levels and landed his first management post at 19 at the GPO, where he was responsible for staff twice his age.
A first-class degree in business studies, and the CIMA qualification, led Craig to The Caudwell group, where he was impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the two brothers, John and Brian Caudwell, who had set up the business in 1987.
‘I wanted to have an equity stake in a company and I also wanted to help it grow,’ he has said. ‘I thought the Caudwells were on to a winner.’
As group finance director Craig has fostered flair and innovation without losing a grip on the financial controls, and hopes to oversee group turnover as it hits #3bn by 2007.
‘That’s a difficult balancing act, which many innovative businesses can’t manage, and that’s why they go bust,’ Craig says. ‘But we managed it, because sound finances were at the heart of our success.’
Shortlisted: Keith Greenhalgh, Capital Interactive; Phil Pacey, Great North Eastern Railway
Sponsored by: FSS Financial
PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
Winner: Anne Redston, Ernst & Young
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