Retail CFO ‘snap-shot’

Over Christmas many ‘high street names’ suffered due to lack of consumer confidence, a change in buying habits, and shift to online. The likes of John Lewis, N Brown, Moss Bros, Joules, Topps Tiles and Superdry all featured in this challenging roll-call … The impact for many retailers has been significant, requiring radical change and transformation to get their businesses ‘fit-for-purpose’ and ready to weather further challenges.

So what has this meant for the CFO? At a high-level we can see there are huge pressures on costs (domestic and international), renegotiations with lenders of finance providers, a greater focus on  supply chain management and efficiencies, smarter use of tech, the automation of back office finance processes, and  tighter cash management.

To help our clients understand how their peers are thinking, and to gain much-needed insight into the market, we conducted a CFO survey over recent weeks. With a significant number of CFO’s responding, we got a good feel for sentiment and thinking. In summary we found:

  • There is current and forecast future demand for Finance Directors and CFO’s with a strong retail bias. A track record of turning around under-performing organisations is high on Board agendas
  • When interviewed during the survey, a high percentage of CFO’s highlighted the skills gap within their own teams, particularly around financial control, reporting and business partnering
  • 70% of CFO’s said ‘diversity of thought’ is business critical. Taking on an Interim Executive gave them an unbiased view on how things could be done better due to the experience gained working within multiple organisations
  • 85% of CFO’s surveyed said strong stewardship and accurate business intelligence was more business critical than ever
  • Whilst those surveyed would prefer sector expertise, there is an undercurrent of ‘openness’ i.e. clients are more open to considering candidates from outside of sector
  • Technology, international expertise, and previous exposure of working for organisations within a listed environment are again in demand. This is driven by a need for prior exposure to good governance and strong financial controls
  • For finance leadership and transformation positions, 68% percent of CFO’s surveyed said they would happily engage an interim to fulfil their requirements due to internal/external skill shortages
  • Gap management and process transformation were key themes during 2019. However 2020 has presented new challenges on talent acquisition due to the balance of both commercial and technical skills being required in equal measure
  • Although cost was almost always a factor, 89% of CFO’s surveyed commented cost was of secondary importance to effective delivery, upskilling, and knowledge transfer to existing staff. Time to hire was always a major issue requiring an effective solution quickly

Many clients said the key to success is upskilling their work force whilst diversifying the thought process across their finance leadership team. Raising the bar on expectation and performance within finance is critical to their business success. The benefit of having interims supporting the SLT on change and transformation programmes enables the delivery of effective leadership and guidance quickly in areas such as  FP&A and Technical Accounting. Many CFO’s said they do not have the luxury of waiting six months for their direct reports to learn and evolve over time due to the commercial pressures currently facing the business.

Norman Broadbent Group provides a range of Talent Acquisition & Advisory Services to corporate clients. Regardless of whether your company is in growth mode, consolidation, or turnaround, we have the expertise and knowledge to work with you. If you’d like to hear more about our track record, or to discuss a specific assignment, please contact Jonathan Stringer on +44 (0) 207 484 0036 or via