Awards 2001 – The Eden Project – Finance Team of the Year.

Finance teams are frequently the unsung heroes of companies. Usually tucked away in some darkened corner of the office where people only tend to venture when a slip-up occurs with the wages, they very rarely get the chance to step into the limelight. But the aim of becoming a creative company is only achievable with creative financing and budgeting. This is why the Accountancy Age Finance Team of the Year award is still a treasured accolade.

Last year’s winner proved how creative accounting and working as part of the whole business team added significant value to the company. The finance team at Reed Business Information, led by finance director Carolyn Pickering, showed significant contributions to the success of the business.

Yet again innovative financial management was the winning factor for this year’s victors. Faced with a daunting task, the Eden Project’s finance team, headed by FD Gaynor Coley, has proved the most successful this year.

Coley’s troops beat teams from the BBC and the National Audit Office Millennium Dome report team and it was the inspired leadership and innovative management that won over the judges in the end. ‘They have done a very good job. It was a very difficult project to finance,’ they agreed.

One said: ‘Gaynor Coley is clearly an inspired leader. It was on time and on budget. It was an astonishing achievement and I was blown away by the place. Superb.’

The brainchild of visionary Tim Smit, the Eden Project, designed as a landmark for the new millennium, has proved one of the most successful to date. The #86m scheme surpassed its annual visitors target within the first six months of opening. With its bio-domes replicating climates from around the world, the Eden Project is now Cornwall’s biggest tourist attraction.

It pulled in 750,000 visitors – its annual target – in just four months.

By August the three giant bio-domes welcomed their 900,000th visitor since opening to critical acclaim in March.

Juggling the private-public funding from organisations such as the Millennium Commission, NatWest, the European Union’s Objective One scheme and Cornwall Country Council was one of the draws for the finance director. The team was key in managing cash flow effectively, so the project did not stall due to the erratic funding cycles. It also had to contend with a surge in employees from 100 to 470 with all the attendant payroll implications. Added to the constant day-to-day logistics of such a huge operation, the team had to cope with the varying and complex reporting and audit requirements of the six major public funders.

And for those who think the quantity of public scrutiny must make for a serious workplace, the finance team has been publicly commended for its uncharacteristic sense of humour. For example, members dressed up as sunflowers and tap danced on national TV for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal.

Related reading