CFO H1 Review

Norman Broadbent Interim CFO Industrials Practice Half Year Review

The first 6 months of 2019 are almost over, and we have already seen unprecedented demand for CFOs in the Industrials space. This market continues to be majorly disrupted by Brexit and economic uncertainty, particularly within Manufacturing, Construction, and Real Estate sectors; organisations continue to turn to us for subject matter experts in times of transition.

Earlier this year, we have partnered a £1B+ turnover Manufacturing business on a significant change and transformation programme, involving multiple Interim Executive hires to help support them with restructuring and refinancing whilst they change their Target Operating Model. In addition, despite economic disruption, Clients are still investing heavily in new ERP systems as finance departments aim to become leaner, reduce cost, and increase efficiencies. Popular systems like SAP and Oracle are still the systems of choice for most Clients; however, we have recently assisted two other Manufacturing Clients with the implementations of Infor M3 and Microsoft Dynamics, making Finance Transformation Directors and Programme Directors the most sought after Interim Executives placed this year.

The Construction market has hit challenging times in the UK; already this year we have seen a FTSE listed multinational support services and construction company go into pre-pack administration. In addition, one of its competitors has cut in excess of 1,200 jobs in a bid to make an annual cost saving. In the last few months, we partnered a distressed and market-leading construction business with Interim support on multiple and highly confidential projects for their Shared Service Center. This specific transformation involved streamlining both PTP and RTR processes. This is a prime example of where our Clients have increasingly turned to us to help meet their ongoing challenges. This is in part driven by the high impact mentality and innovative mindsets often associated with Interims, many of whom have a breadth and depth of finance transformation knowledge.

Tech savvy CFOs are increasingly pushing new and innovative ways their business can be more data enabled. These CFOs understand the fundamental drivers and metrics of the business, as a foundational element in assessing new, less structured sources of data. They have a clear sense of what customers care about most, and ideas about how to track this. They also have a clear grasp of why customers choose their organisations’ products and services, how those customers are acquired, and what helps retain them. We have recently worked alongside a multi-national Chemicals business with the implementation of a new data analytics dashboard, to integrate with their existing ERP system. This particular stakeholder had never led a change programme like this before, therefore called upon our advice and expertise in this field. This is where Interim Executives add value. Interim management has become the natural option for leadership teams in not only keeping large scale transformation projects alive, but also embedding new ways of working through knowledge transfer and cultural transformation. Through our market analysis, we have seen the integration of data analytic dashboards and other BI tools becoming increasingly common across mid-large cap businesses. The requirement for Finance and Data Transformation experts has grown significantly, and we expect this to continue.

What does the second half of 2019 look like?

Due to the continuing political and economic uncertainty, Clients are opting for Interims to add immediate impact in core areas such as Finance Transformation, Shared Services, reviewing/challenging the TOM, automation, and increased Data Analytics. Interims are now playing a key role in business enablement through effective partnering across both finance and effective operational delivery. Interim management will, we believe, be a continuing trend – and business necessity – across the finance community this year.

Interim management for many senior executives has become an alternative way of staying within consultancy and maintaining independence, delivering greater value by working directly with Clients as a professional Interim. From our Clients’ perspective, this delivers a highly cost-effective solution, with comparable if not greater levels of expertise than engaging one of the ‘Big Four’ consultancies.

If you would like to find out more about how we can support your organisation with Interim expertise, or to discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Kristian Lee on +44 (0) 0207 484 0000 or via for an initial confidential discussion.

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GenderQuake: Time for Insurers to get real

The lack of gender diversity across the Insurance industry is again a ‘hot topic’.

Many would now argue that urgent action is needed.

From a PR perspective, the last few months have been a disaster. In March, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on allegations of sexual harassment and bullying at Lloyd’s of London. In the article, Lloyd’s was described as a “meat market”. In the past week, there have been reports of suspensions and resignations at two major firms following allegations of “rude and offensive” comments, and sexual harassment. In addition, judging by comments from the Lloyd’s chairman, Bruce Carnegie-Brown (City A.M), there may be more to come.

Hard times …

But despite the headlines, the tide has been turning for a while as most parts of the Insurance industry have proactively sought to create more inclusive workplaces. Lloyd’s – and the London market in general – has always seemed slow to change so, in a way, it is good to see these incidents being dealt with as opposed to being swept under the carpet.

Unfortunately, the recent negative publicity reflects badly on the industry as a whole. This will be felt most acutely when it comes to attracting female or more diverse Talent at a senior level in functions such as Technology and Data, where we often seek to attract candidates out of sector.

But there is a solution …

Over recent years, Norman Broadbent Group has worked extensively with Clients to help them meet their D&I challenges.  For example, we have been working with a leading global professional services partnership to help them:

  • Understand the Female Talent Landscape in, and around, their sector
  • Benchmark themselves, from a gender perspective, against their competitors/the wider market
  • Meet their stated objective of increasing senior female Talent
  • Pipeline ‘next generation’ female Talent
  • Design a new female candidate engagement strategy
  • Improve candidate communications with female Talent

To enable both these initiatives we have built a gender specific Female Talent Pipeline focussed on 150 firms across three key locations (UK, Australia, USA). We also researched and uncovered lateral Talent sat outside the pre-agreed target companies who had profiles and skill sets of interest.  This initiative has allowed the Client to make significant steps towards their objectives, and resulted in considerable cultural change to deliver an Inclusive environment.

Obviously, every business is different and there is no blanket solution. However the proactive approach outlined above enables firms to make an immediate impact on their D&I challenges, and create a longer term, more sustainable solution for the future.  But above all, it works!

If you would like to discuss how Norman Broadbent Group can help you overcome your business or people challenges, or to specifically discuss Diversity & Inclusivity, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui Pinnell or Clare Nash for an initial and confidential conversation.

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The Digital ‘Trainsformation’

This month, I’d like to share some thoughts on digital transformation within Rail. Clients are now more focused on the need for Tech and Operations to work closer together, enabling them to effectively and accurately manage, monitor, and maintain their assets to support real-time decision-making.

For digital transformation to provide real value, our Clients are attempting to merge operational and IT data, making it accessible to the whole organisation. If achieved, Operational Technology will be aligned with their business systems; IT will also help drive and deliver innovation, efficiencies, and reduce/remove downtime. To achieve this, IT will need the support of Operations to understand and control the assets. So whilst digital transformation is complicated, when done correctly, the combination of IT (the Internet of Things) and Operational Technology can create platforms allowing businesses and organisations to effectively manage, monitor, and maintain their assets.

This approach will also enable IT to connect with complex assets and Operational Technology systems. This will enable the capture of real-time data, allowing the performance monitoring, deterioration, failure, location, and safety compliance of assets, as well as delivering monitoring systems tracking scheduling and asset utilisation.

However, the creation of a digital railway system that forecasts failures, demand, customer behaviour, and the degradation of assets is not that simple. It can only be effective when all the relevant data points are captured, which includes engineering knowledge. This is because the digital engineering models created during the engineering phase of a project tend not to play a role in the operational phase. This is highlighted by the increasing number of Clients asking us about digital engineering, and how engineering technology forms part of their wider digital projects to boost system efficiency, as well as meeting the increasing demand for new product design. So for digital railway systems to provide the efficiency, customer experience, and commercial benefits desired, they will need to acquire a broad range of data points, covering design and manufacturing. This will allow the system to fully assess the condition of its assets from a fleet, system, probability of a shutdown or delay, and unexpected asset malfunction perspective.

In light of this wave of digital transformation projects, Clients are seeking to leverage our networks and sector knowledge outside of Rail, to pre-inform their digital strategy, and to make key strategic hires, either in a permanent, Interim or consultancy capacity. This is due to their personal and professional networks rarely containing the solutions they seek. More and more the candidates they seek come from out of sector, and can be found in the Consulting, Technology, Financial Services, or Life Sciences space.

If you would like to find out more about how Norman Broadbent Solutions can help you, or to discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Behan on +44 (0) 0207 484 0106 or via for an initial confidential discussion.

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Steering a course: The battle between technical capability and leadership competence


Assessing Leadership capability in Engineering-led organisations – The battle between technical capability and leadership competence

It has often been the case that engineering-led organisations fall into the trap of promoting or hiring only the most technically qualified individuals into leadership roles. Organizations suffer considerable human and financial costs when a person who has been promoted or hired because of strong individual performance and qualifications fails to adjust successfully to the role of a leader.

The failures aren’t surprising, given the difficulty of the transition. Ask any new leader about the early days of being a boss—indeed, ask any senior executive to recall how he or she felt as a new leader. If you get an honest answer, you’ll hear a tale of disorientation and, for some, overwhelming confusion. The new role didn’t feel anything like it was supposed to. It felt too big for any one person to handle.

So how can these failures be mitigated? The new leader’s functional competence should be a given – they are technically qualified and have demonstrable experience that makes them relevant for the role. It is their ability to lead that is often unproven or more difficult to assess. Therefore, a good hiring or promotion process must look deeply at the individual’s experience to search for tangible examples of when leadership competence has been demonstrated. The evidence may present itself across a range of situations and behaviours. Their ability to deal with adversity when things are going wrong, when they have led small project teams, or have had to deal with difficult senior stakeholders can all indicate that an individual contributor is able to deal with the trials and tribulations of a leadership position.

The behavioural competencies required to succeed in the role must be identified before any hiring or promotion process is initiated, to ensure a rigorous and evidence-based assessment. This will help to ensure that the right individuals are appointed, particularly in engineering-led businesses where the technical competence of the potential candidates can become overly important during the selection and interview stage. In some cases a focus on these competencies can overshadow the need for the wider leadership skills that are necessary for the success of the new leader – whether we are talking about a seasoned Executive or someone being considered for their first promotion to a more senior level.

At Norman Broadbent we have the capability to help develop your assessment process and execute your search to ensure potential new hires and promotes have both the leadership and technical capabilities to meet your business’s needs. If you would like to discuss how Norman Broadbent can help you overcome your business or people challenges, or to specifically discuss how we can support your next key hire, please do not hesitate to contact John Begley for an initial and confidential conversation.

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Game Changer: Identifying Impact Talent


In the May eBriefing, we noted that the Consultants of Norman Broadbent’s Consumer & Retail practice meet over two thousand industry leaders a year. Amongst such numbers, clients often want to know how we recognise the talent that will make a difference to their business.

The executive search process itself plays no small part in answering that question; for us, there are two real keys:

Understanding “what good looks like”

  • This can vary enormously from one individual to another, and even from one year to another.
  • There should be no assumptions “what good looks like”: every hiring manager has a different set of experiences and needs that will shape his or her view on a hire, meaning that a thorough briefing with all stakeholders for every search is essential.
  • Asking the right questions during the briefing to understand the full context for each hire is vital to get a true understanding of the skills, personality and background needed – we often tell our clients that the more insight they are able to give us, the better our results will be.

Being clear on context

  • Different types of leader are needed for different situations; whilst we never generalise, we have found that there are a number of high level parameters which will impact what sort of leader we are looking for.
  • When hiring for a family-owned business where the family is still closely involved in the running of the business, the successful hire will often be a leader who has worked, and thrived, within a similar dynamic previously; the same holds true for founder-run businesses
  • The leap from leading within a large corporate to leading within an SME is significant; it is rare that leaders can pass seamlessly from one to the other – often, an interim step within a mid-sized business is wise!

Within the Consumer & Retail practice, we know that the quality of insight that our clients give us will be fundamental to the success of the work that we deliver for them, and we are not afraid to probe and question until we are happy that we have the full picture: for one food industry search earlier this year, we had to conduct separate briefings with three different groups of stakeholders before we had a true understanding of what was needed in a new Managing Director. Where needed, we can also deploy our Research & Insight team to provide additional due diligence prior to hiring.

When it comes the leaders themselves, there are some common traits that we have learnt to associate with highly effective leaders:


  • They are able to articulate complex concepts in simple language, using illustrations, comparisons and stories that bring their points to life in such a way that anyone can understand them.
  • Operating on a “no-surprises” basis, frequent and transparent communication at all levels – with teams, peers and managers – is second nature.

Talent development

  • Succession is on their mind, often from early on within their tenure; they are usually able to point to more than once example of having developed a direct report to become their eventual successor; moreover, they often remain in touch as mentors and confidants to former direct reports for many years, meaning that they have strong and broad networks.
  • Development and empowerment of their own teams is of the utmost importance for them; once trust is established and a general framework/guiding vision set, they will devolve plenty of responsibility down into their teams and will let their direct reports make their own decisions within this.
  • They are unafraid of hiring brilliant people who will challenge and sometimes eventually outrank them; they will also recognise when to let them go to continue their development within another business.

Ability to balance long and short-term priorities

  • They will make difficult decisions drawing on both long- and short-term implications; these will sometimes clash and in these instances they will stand their ground and argue their case.
  • They are able to engage different groups of stakeholders, both internally and externally, around a challenging agenda for the longer term good of a business and its broader ecosystem – Unilever’s recently retired Paul Polman is a good example.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the overwhelming trait found within the most successfully leaders is their humanity and humility – it is our privilege to encounter so many of our best and brightest leaders through the day-to-day business of Norman Broadbent.

If you would like to find out more about how we can support your organisation with Interim expertise, or to discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Lucie Shaw on +44 (0) 020 7484 0022 or via for an initial confidential discussion.

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FP&A – the most critical function in finance?

With technological advancements, enabling data to be used more effectively, clients are redefining the function of FP&A now and in the future in their organisational structure, with the line between commercial finance and data analytics becoming ever closer. FP&A continues to expand to become the central hub of corporate analytics in the vast majority of medium sized and large organisations, placing increasing emphasis in appointing the right person to this critical role.

With FP&A moving more towards the centre of most organisations, the skills our clients are looking for in their Heads of FP&A are evolving. Over the last 12 months, 40% of all the direct reports to the CFO / Group FD have been FP&A appointments versus 25% in the previous 12 months, demonstrating the increased focus our clients are placing on optimising their FP&A function. Whilst traditional FP&A skills such as excellent commercial insight and analytical skills remain critical, increasing importance is being placed on stakeholder management and business partnering, as well as the ability to thrive in an environment of change and continuous improvement.

With most large and medium-sized companies operating in ecosystems that are increasingly intricate and changing exponentially, sitting still isn’t an option. One of our clients described what they were looking for in their Head of Group FP&A as someone who is capable of being disruptive in a collaborative way and has the tenacity and resilience to get to the right answer. With clients looking for Heads of FP&A who have both the IQ and EQ to thrive in the role, it is understandable why clients are turning to businesses such as ours, to leave no stone unturned, when they make this critical appointment.

Wayne Poulton,

Director, Finance

Norman Broadbent Solutions

DDI: +44 (0) 20 7355 6941

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