Market Update: Accounting & Finance

The market for finance professionals has changed noticeably in recent months. In an economy short on confidence, one would expect limited demand for finance professionals. Political uncertainty, the combination of slowing growth, rising inflation, and underwhelming economic forecasts, have all contributed to an environment of uncertainty. Despite this, the real challenge has not been in business demand but in the supply of candidates who can fulfil client requirements.  Clients have opted for a blended model of both interim (gap management) and executive search to find long term solutions to key hires within their finance leadership team.  Detailed below are summaries of our key findings in those categories where most client demand has fallen:

Finance Director: Alongside technical acumen, commercial and leadership intelligence are critical in ensuring Finance Directors play the combined roles of strategist, operator, leader, steward, and catalyst for change. It is clearly unusual to find all of these skills in one individual and as a consequence, organisation across all sectors have been finding it challenging to identify candidates with the right mix of skills and competencies when appointing Finance Directors. Hiring managers have had to prioritise which competencies are most critical to business success, and many have been utilising Psychometric Assessment as a key part of their Search methodology to remove subjectivity and help optimise hiring decisions.

FP&A: Many clients have experienced significant challenge in driving greater commercial insight into areas such as FP&A and Data Analytics to improve business partnering within the business. One such client challenged us to find their new Head of Group FP&A, asking us to look for “someone who is capable of being disruptive in a collaborative way and has the tenacity and resilience to get to the right answer.” Both the IQ and EQ to thrive in the role is often hard to secure, therefore opting for an executive search-based methodology to unearth individuals with skills in equal proportion is essential.

Financial Control: In addition to traditional accounting and cost centre management roles, the modern-day Financial Controller is increasingly becoming a catalyst for change, working with the CFO and other departments in the analysis and origination of strategic solutions. Consequently, the role is more three dimensional than in the past and factors considered in hiring decisions are increasingly complex and varied. This complexity, paired with fierce competition for top performers, means it is often hard to find candidates with the unique set of skills needed. As a result, we are hearing from many clients who are failing to appoint Financial Controllers through direct advertisements, internal talent teams, and contingent recruiters.

Treasury: Due to last years’ volatile and uncertain business climate, organisations were acutely aware of the need to remain sufficiently liquid and manage any risk exposure. Consequently, Treasurers are increasingly being called upon to act in an advisory capacity to the Board. Group Treasurers have also expanded their influence across the organisation, meaning any gaps between treasury and key strategic influencers are closing. With ongoing technological advancements, Group Treasurers are constantly looking for new ways to provide up to date, or real time information on cash positions and cash forecasts. This deeper insight allows Group Treasurers to better react to any cash and/or working capital needs. Therefore, they are significantly increasing their spend on treasury technology and innovations to gain maximum visibility over their function, achieving greater strategic control. As a result of this evolution, we have seen significant demand for Group Treasurers and Heads of Treasury with a process improvement mindset.

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 jonathan.stringer@normanbroadbentinterim.com

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Q: What makes a good CIO?

A: This is a question that I have been asked many times over the last twenty some years and one that in many ways has not changed in all that time. Trends in technology have come and gone, we have entered a digital age and as a result seen the demand for more and faster change. Consumers now have all of the power in the value chain and businesses that don’t realise this, are as quickly forgotten as our last holiday. Reporting lines have changed to reflect the changing emphasis on technology in most sectors. Every survey I read these days reports that more tech leaders now report to CEO’s and sit at the exec table. Having said that, those same surveys will also note that some 35-40% of them still report directly to their CFO.

Whatever the reporting line of the CIO/CTO/CDO etc. it is clear to me that to be a tech leader, you must first be a great business leader.  When I have been asked “what makes an IT leader a CIO”, I have often used the CFO as an example.  After all, the CFO is a great business leader but they do not “do the accounts”. In the same way, a CIO helps to lead the businesses but they do not “do the IT”.  Technology and the people and process that underpin it, are simply the levers a CIO pulls to deliver the results the business requires for its customers.

There are several key indicators that should define and can be used to help select a CIO.

  • Commercial Acumen: CIO’s are responsible for the design and delivery of a technology environments that support the business. They should be capable of articulating a clear investment strategy; one that delivers tangible ROI and follows the simple mantra “People Process Technology”, after all there are no IT Projects.
  • Speak the same language: My first measure of a CIO candidate is often the terms in which they communicate their successes. When asked about their business how do they respond? If the discussion leans towards customer experience, innovation, operational efficiency or shareholder value, chances are you are talking to a CIO. If the subjects tend towards the technical and abstract, the chances are, you are not.
  • Leadership: If a CIO does not “do IT”, then what do they do? Like all good business ‘leaders’ the CIO should do just that… lead. They should be capable of helping the business to create its overall strategy. They should then create the Vision for IT and empower their teams to create a technology strategy to deliver on it. Often this will run counter to what has gone before and will require cultural changes throughout the business. Showing strong leadership during these types of transitions, incidentally, is what often leads to the CIO becoming the COO.
  • Agility & Innovation: The days of boom and bust monolithic technology investments are over. Consumer driven demand has created an economy where every industry must now be more ‘agile’. Sometimes this is simply interpreted as the need for agile development methodologies. However, the CIO must support a much wider degree of agility across the business. They must provide an environment where innovation becomes part of the culture, rather than just a team and change management is the norm. After all, if change becomes the constant and the next tech trend could disrupt your business, then ‘change management’ is the key to survival.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Neil Pilkington, on 07483 015 605 or via neil.pilkington@normanbroadbent.com

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Will UAM take off?

In 1962s, the Jetson’s The Family of the Future! burst on to American TV offering viewers a glimpse of lifestyle of tomorrow. With the date of that ‘future’ fast approaching (believed to be 2021), there has been no shortage of commentators wondering where their robot nannies and other futuristic household gadgets are. Most memorable, of course, were the Jetson’s flying cars, widely believed to be the most fantastic of all the inventions. Yet recent developments in the world of urban air mobility (UAM) suggest that such a mode of transport may be closer than we think. With several proof-of-concept trials to support the feasibility of UAM, is this ‘futuristic’ mode of travel set to take off?

Airbus and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) have recently signed a memorandum of understanding to enable UAM in Singapore. The collaboration aims to bring UAM services and platforms to reality in Singapore’s urban environment, with the target to enhance industry productivity and improve the country’s regional connectivity. Another German company, Volocopter has also identified Singapore as a prime location to test its fully electric manned air taxis, in partnership with local predominant ride hailing app, Grab.  Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Wisk, a joint venture between Kitty Hawk and Boeing has proposed trials of their unmanned craft in the Christchurch region. While there are many obvious differences between these two urban landscapes, the range of the Wisk is only 25km, so the focus remains on short-distance urban flights.

So, is this the solution to urban congestion or just pie in the sky? As cities and roads have grown more congested, focus has increasingly turned to the skies above as alternative routes. NASA, Boeing, Airbus and Uber have all thrown their hats in the ring to develop potential short-hop, manned or unmanned, electric aircraft, all utilising vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology. In the end, the dream is the craft which can pick you up from the pad on your building’s roof top or drop you off in the car park to go to the cinema. Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter cites another Sci-Fi universe as inspirational, namely, Luc Bessons The Fifth Element, which features car flying on multiple levels through the ‘canyons’ created by towering buildings in New York City.

There are many challenges and potential criticisms for this upsurge in urban air mobility. One primary area of concern is safety. Put simply, fewer people walk away unharmed from an airborne vehicle accident than one on the ground. Both the Wisk and the Volocopter boast in-built redundancies, meaning they can lose several of the electric-powered rotors which provide lift before the craft is in danger of losing altitude. Then there is the question of manned or unmanned craft. A pilot introduces the element of user error, but critics of unmanned aerial vehicles point to the failure to develop a reliably safe driverless car, without introducing the complexities of air travel.

Sustainability is another key area of debate. Most vehicles in development are electric, so many advocates argue that UAM schemes may come to represent the greenest way to get around. Eventually they could be powered by solar or other renewable sources. However, there are carbon-costs associated with building and developing the aircraft, and as most proposed designs are for one or two passengers, it will take many hundreds of journeys to pay off the carbon debt.

Another criticism often levelled at UAM schemes, is that they offer a transportation scheme for the few, rather than the many. The designs currently under development are for air taxis, small vehicles for single passengers or small groups. It seems inevitable that it will remain an elite mode of transport, even as the technology develops and production costs come down, for there must be a limit to the number of EVTOL craft any metropolis can support?

Urban congestion is ultimately an artefact of increasingly populous cities, something the Jetson’s never had to contend with. What would the desire for individual ‘family’ aircraft mean for our Urban landscape, or should I say ‘skyscape’? Many critics argue that the solution must be to focus on developing greener and more effective modes of public transportation, such as the elevated bus, a Chinese design for a large public passenger vehicle which runs on rails straddling a road, while allowing traffic to pass underneath.

So, will UAM bring us closer to the cities of the future? Or are these trials little more than publicity stunts? The answer will no doubt lie somewhere in the middle. Unlike the Jetson’s we will probably never see the rise of the ‘flying car’ (or EVTOL craft) as a family vehicle – modern urban population density renders that an impossible dream. However, there is little doubt they will form part of the solution for our future urban transportation, probably in conjunction with other forms of transport. In the course of developing and refining these craft, there will no doubt be technological advancements and refinements with wider applications than just air mobility.  As these percolate through transportation technology, we can hope to see those applications across many forms of transport, bringing sustainability to the forefront of the sector as a whole …

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Adam Small, on 07483 015 602 or via adam.small@normanbroadbentsolutions.com

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#Retail2019 That went well …

After a challenging 2019, Norman Broadbent’s Consumer, Leisure & Retail Practice has paused to look back at 2019, and then ahead to 2020.  It seems that with every passing year, the Consumer & Retail landscape becomes more turbulent and more volatile. Indeed, recently released research attests to this, with Retail CEOs seeing their highest turnover for 7 years and high-profile administrations including Mothercare, Debenhams and Bonmarche in 2019. CEOs and business leaders frequently attest to experiencing “a very tough environment”, with some even describing it as the toughest climate they’ve encountered. On analysing Christmas trading however, there are some bright spots. As expected these include pureplay retailers such as ASOS and Boohoo, but also older multichannel businesses such as Dunelm, Greggs and Lidl, who saw increased like-for-like sales growth of 5 – 11% during recent Christmas trading, and strong results more generally through the year.

So we asked ourselves “What do these very different businesses have in common that might play a part in their trading success?”

The answers were:

“All three have tapped into the zeitgeist”

  • In recent years, Dunelm has significantly broadened both its channel to market and its product range, ensuring its appeal to a much wider audience and millennials in particular
  • Greggs have seen phenomenal success with their new vegan ranges, supported by excellent tongue-in-cheek social media presence
  • Lidl, with their unerring focus on simple core ranges which deliver “the best quality for the lowest prices” have struck a real chord with the UK consumer

“They have kept things simple, and remain focussed on their core”

  • After a number of acquisitions including Kiddicare and Worldstores, Dunelm simplified their proposition and operations in recent years, ensuring a streamlined business with a clear direction
  • Greggs have remained true to their bakery heritage and customer base, all whilst expanding their range to reflect changing consumer habits and needs
  • Lidl are renowned for their centralised supply chain, consistent process and format across the UK

Although it may seem at first glance as though it is primarily the more competitively priced businesses who are seeing strong results, in fact, there were also good examples of premium retailers doing well over the same period. Notably these were Reiss and Fortnum & Mason (+18% and +13% like-for-like sales growth over the Christmas period respectively).

So, what do we expect in 2020? Sadly, it seems unlikely we will see a more stable landscape. Despite a decisive UK General Election result, and an end to Brexit uncertainty which impacted consumer confidence, the Consumer & Retail sectors continue to face significant pressures including rising costs, increased competition particularly online, challenges in accessing, engaging and retaining the right talent, and the impact of other global events such as Coronavirus and its effect on confidence and supply chain. Consequently, first class leadership teams who work seamlessly together, are agile and quick in their decision-making, will be more important than ever.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Lucie Shaw, on 07540 915 077 or via lucie.shaw@normanbroadbentsolutions.com

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People Moves in Risk & Compliance

  • TSB CRO Iain Laing has become the latest executive to part ways with the bank as it reels from the fallout of last year’s IT failure.
  • Watford Holdings has today announced that Liz Cunningham has joined the Company as Chief Risk Officer (CRO) on January 2, 2020.
  • LGIM continues run of top female hires to fill compliance role; Camille Blackburn to join from Aviva Investors in early 2020 as head of compliance
  • Spanish lender Banco Sabadell’s chief risk officer David Vegara will become a member of the board of directors of Sabadell’s UK subsidiary TBS as per its strategy of planned rotation of representatives in TBS.
  • Brown Shipley’s chief risk officer (CRO) and the head of its Scottish business are both leaving the business
  • REVOLUT Fintech bank Revolut has announced the appointment of Pierre Decote as chief risk officer (CRO).
  • Aviva has announced the appointment of Jan-Hendrik Erasmus as chief Risk officer, reporting to Maurice Tulloch. He will start in February 2020 and will be a member of the Aviva Leadership Team.
  • LONDON (BestWire) – Legal & General Investment Management Holdings Ltd. has named Margaret Ammon as chief risk officer, subject to regulatory approvals.
  • Aston Lark has named its first-ever group chief risk officer. Deloitte veteran Ian Jacob took on the newly created post this week, joining Aston Lark’s executive leadership team.
  • John Titchener Ecclesiastical group compliance director to retire. John Schofield has returned to the insurer on an interim basis as Titchener steps down. Schofield is Ecclesiastical’s former group chief risk
  • Premium Credit has appointed James Wilson as its new chief risk officer, with responsibility for leading the company’s legal, risk, and compliance functions.
  • Vistra, a leading global corporate service, trust and fund administration provider, announced the appointment to its global compliance team of Salima Fajal as regional compliance director, Europe
  • End to end payments platform Paybase has announced the appointment of Rachel Coote as Head of Compliance and MLRO.
  • Platform software giant FNZ has hired Giles Triffitt from Monzo to replace Christian Dougal as chief risk officer, who is leaving the company after nine years
  • LGIM appoints Margaret Ammon as chief risk officer
  • Standard Life Aberdeen has appointed Zurich chief risk officer Cecilia Reyes as a non-executive director.
  • Paysafe Group, a global payments provider, has named Richard Swales as chief risk officer
  • Law firm  Anderson Strathern  has hired Coral Bain as its first risk and compliance director.Bain is a former head of professional practice at the Law Society of Scotland who has expertise in governance, professional regulation, GDPR and strategic compliance.
  • Revolut has announced the appointment of Pierre Decote as its new Group CRO as the fintech continues to expand worldwide.
  • UK has appointed Helen Hunter-Jones as its Chief Risk Officer.
  • Monzo has appointed ClearBank’s Chief Risk and Compliance Officer as its new Chief Risk Officer.
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has appointed Annemarie Straathof as its new Vice President, Risk and Compliance and Chief Risk Officer.
  • Olivier Vigneron is appointed Chief Risk Officer for Natixis and member of the senior management committee.
  • Mortgages plc, the specialist lender, has announced the appointment of Bill Purves to the new position of Group Risk Director.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact, Mike Davies, on 07590 244 869 or via mike.davies@normanbroadbentinterim.com

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A Brexit Dividend or Boris Bounce?

In 2019, activity slowed in developing and advanced economies, with trade tensions weighing on exports, industrial output, and capital spending. However, despite last year’s slow pace of global economic growth, Q4 2019 was exceptionally busy for our CFO Practice.

Due to UK economic uncertainty, many clients took urgent action – these tended to centre on transformation projects designed to reduce costs and simplify operational processes. For example, we saw an unprecedented number of mandates being signed off for interim CFOs with turnaround expertise. We also saw demand for Interim Business Transformation Directors able to support Leadership Teams in implementing cost reduction programmes whilst simultaneously supporting internal client comms/messaging.

2020: What now?

  • Many within the CFO community are putting greater focus on their Supply Chain & Procurement functions. According to Retail Week, 29% of retailers don’t have true visibility of their supply chain. A Norman Broadbent survey in Q4 2019 found that 85% of clients felt a more effective procurement strategy globally was business critical to their survival.
  • Technology is a common issue for all CFOs having to operate their businesses on multiple ERP systems globally (often not fit for purpose).
  • In our survey we found that 65% of CFOs said even though they had an IT Department, there was no overarching tech strategy to address issues around business intelligence. Similarly we found there was often no defined tech road map to enable more automation and reduce the burden and cost of manual intervention in the production of accounts for many global organisations with multiple sites. Because of this, many CFOs have been considering establishing shared service centres out of city centres to reduce cost of rent and labour.
  • Treasury has been a continuous focus for the majority of CFOs. Renegotiating banking covenants and achieving cost savings through consolidation of Banking suppliers has been business critical. Over 42% of CFOs surveyed said their Treasury capability was a) limited to cash management, b) did not have the capability (internally) to implement Treasury Management Systems, and c) could not effectively manage the risk associated with moving to different Banking providers.
  • Many clients continue to opt for fixed term contracts as opposed to daily rates due to the IR35 legislation. As the demand for highly skilled interim talent continues to outstrip supply, clients are being more creative and building into salary packages completion bonuses to ensure they retain contractors over the term of engagement and ensure successful outcomes.

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 jonathan.stringer@normanbroadbentinterim.com

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