Special report 2/3

The number of CFOs who expect the bulk of their firm’s workforce to return to working from an office by the third quarter of this year. Deloitte

for any company dealing with the effects of the pandemic – bringing different teams together to solve common problems.

Emergency measures

For James Kidd, deputy CEO and CFO at the Aveva Group, his team was vital in keeping the lights on as the pandemic developed. “I think it revealed our flexibility and adaptability in the business,” he said, pointing out that like everyone, Aveva had to change very quickly to new ways of working. “For example, having to deliver implementation services to our customers entirely remotely, without being on the customer site was a challenge. Prior to the pandemic we had service people travelling to the customer to be on-site for prolonged periods of time, whereas we very quickly had to learn how to use the cloud and collaborate differently with their customers. So the adaptability of our organisation shone through.” Kidd’s relief that systems and processes had held steady was echoed by many speakers at the event.

BritVic have stood firm despite the pandemic – crediting the strength of the business and the balance sheet.

Looking ahead

In short, many CFOs suddenly have found themselves becoming communicators in chief, as well as systems integrators – while their CEOs are sounding boards and strategists. More to the point, the demands on the next generation of CFOs will inevitably change. James Kidd, for his part, pointed to the growing importance of harnessing data as a key shift in the coming decade. “Data is becoming bigger and bigger,” he explains, “and the business requires more insight into how it is performing and also how to measure actual success.” In Kidd’s view, the move away from the traditional reliance on financial measures – and towards future- predicting data analytics more – will play a big part in the lives of finance teams going forward. “How we think about planning, forecasting and how we can better scenario plan new potential outcomes,” will be vital, he says. “So data is certainly a big feature and you know that’s something that we as a finance team are very good at.”

Of course, those who believe they can predict the future are either mad or foolish, but the savvy CFO now has more tools at their disposal than ever before. Ken Bowles, group CFO at Smurfit Kappa is perhaps the model for the forward-thinking CFO, one with a handle on the core financials but also with an understanding of how the business fits into wider societal and environmental trends.

“We were fortunate in terms of the strength of the business and the balance sheet,” recalled Joanne Wilson, CFO of drinks giant BritVic. “So we were coming off strong market share gains and we’d completed a supply chain transformation in GB as well as recently refinanced our RCF.”

“From an internal perspective, just having those open communications and two-way comms so that people really understood what was happening and we could support them, was massive.”

Joanne Wilson, BritVic

Wilson pointed out that the key to BritVic’s successful handling of the crisis was to keep lines of communication open. “Through this we really upweighted our comms and engagement efforts. It was so important that we did that – not just internally but also externally. From an internal


“I think what the CFO can bring to that discussion is to balance the abstract concept of sustainability and what the roadmaps toward net zero [carbon emissions] looks like, with the CFO skill. That skill allows us to say: ‘Hold on, I’ll actually show you the road map in terms of the capital plan, the outputs and the financial returns that go along with that’.” Bowles believes one of his key roles is to provide the framework for the future. “People will be asking: ‘Show me how you actually get there’, and that’s where the CFO steps into that question. A lot of organisations should [explain that]: ‘I understand the ambition here, but let’s talk about how we achieve that ambition along a road map that’s achievable’. If you a CFO can display that to people you will get huge buy-in; but if you can’t, I think you lose the audience fairly quickly.”

People like people

Bart Adam, CFO of Securitas, was in the unique position of looking back on a 20 year career at the company and getting set for a move away from the CFO’s office. As his tenure draws to a close – he’s recently overseen the successful acquisition of Stanley Security – Adam was able to offer two

Finance Director Europe /

perspective, just having those open communications and two-way comms, so that people really understood what was happening and we could support them through that was massive.”

Piotr Swat/

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