Business – FDs take 18 months to become effective

Finance directors need to have been in a post for 18 months before they can be fully effective, Nigel Stapleton, co-chief executive of publisher Reed Elsevier, told last weekend’s Finance Directors’ Forum.

The event is attended by nearly 400 finance directors and in a closed session on the role of the FD, Stapleton, Reed Elsevier finance director until 1996, set out the qualities a successful FD should display.

Speaking to Accountancy Age, he said: ‘I think it’s an area where you grow in the job and you cope with it better, but I think very few FDs come into the job and can get the balance right in the first year to 18 months. In order to get the balance right you need to acquire confidence in your direct reports.’

FDs also needed to ensure they had a good relationship with managers in other parts of the business. ‘I’ve seen people who have a good rapport as chief financial officer with the chief executive officer, but have not spent what I would see as a reasonable amount of time with each of the business group divisional chief executives,’ he said.

But once appointed, Stapleton said finance directors should be careful not to view themselves as more important than the rest of the main board team. ‘I don’t think the FD is fully equipped to be a deputy CEO,’ he said.

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