PracticeAccounting FirmsView from the board: should you stay or should you go?

View from the board: should you stay or should you go?

Some would say that you should jump ship as soon as your company announces its plans to merge. But there is an alternative view

Last year was a year of big mergers and acquisitions. BOC was bought, BAA was
bought, the list could go on. As a result, a number of people with large finance
functions were suddenly faced with an interesting choice: should they stay or
should they go?

The thought process was seemingly pretty simple. If people stayed on, they
would lose the independent status they had enjoyed previously, and they would
have to learn how to serve new masters. If they left, they would potentially get
a good exit package and bonus, and would be left to look for their next new
challenge (after they had spent some of the money on a trip to Australia). For
many, the second option looked like the best idea, and with the bonus of the
long-haul holiday, it was a difficult option against which to argue. However,
the obvious decision isn’t always the best.

There is a lot to be gained by working your way through a transition. For
instance, we as recruiters are always asking candidates about change management:
whether you have had exposure to change? If you have led change? How you have
effected change?

There are few better situations in which to achieve change than in a merger
situation. By its very nature, substantial change has to occur, and as finance
professionals you are likely to be working at the heart of it.

Every department has to be crunched together and finance is integral to that
process. A new infrastructure to support the new business must be created, and
as a result, finance has to manage much of it, both for the business and the
people that work within it.

This experience is both rare and useful. The chance to help lead the
integration of businesses such as BAA, O2, Allied Domecq, or BOC doesn’t come
along very often. It’s an excellent chance to work with some of the leading
figures within the newly-merged company. As a result, it’s also a great chance
to build strong working relationships with your new bosses ­ never a bad idea!

There are numerous areas where finance can and must add value to a merger
process, and this experience can be extremely career-enhancing. Does it offset a
trip to Australia? Well, maybe it does. Happy New Year, everyone.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &
Berndtson

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