PracticeAccounting FirmsView from the board: group dynamics

View from the board: group dynamics

I have written many times about how the role of finance has evolved, and I won't bore you all again with yet more stories of commerciality and operational support.

But there have been some very definite developments in the senior finance
roles at group level, however, and these are worth discussing.

The role of the group FD in the larger (FTSE 200) companies has changed,
there’s no other way of putting it.

The increasing focus on external relationships – shareholders, investors etc;
and the continued focus on the increasing areas of governance – have created a
situation where the role has become too much for one person to do.

That’s not to say that group FDs haven’t tried, but it simply is not doable.

This has given rise to a new role being created – the deputy group FD.

This person, either promoted from within or recruited externally, has taken
on much of the internal FD role.

They have taken on responsibility for areas such as tax and treasury, and
picked up the internal management of the operating company FDs, and they are
giving a lot more support to areas such as investor relations and banking
relationships. Oh, and of course, the management of the group central finance
team.

Now – this is great. It’s a wonderful career development role. It gives you
exposure to the external market.

It ensures you are known by the City. It gives you responsibility, and means
that when you are interviewed by an audit committee chairman, they know you can
run the central finance function.

But it also creates a fundamental issue – which is that rather than the group
FD doing one and three-quarter jobs, you end up doing that much instead.

So deputy group FDs insisted that another role should be reinstated – the old
group FC role.

This meant that the central team had a group FD, a deputy group FD and a
group FC in it, giving the centre the required amount of people to cope with a
much more onerous set of tasks.

What is so good about this is that the central finance roles have long been
excellent career development roles for finance leaders. But there was only ever
one that was available.

Almost overnight, it seems, this opportunity has doubled and I wanted you to
know so you could take advantage of it. A headhunter with a heart, you say?
There are some of them about.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &
Berndtson

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