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The CFO Agenda 2019

International search and recruitment firm Pure, were proud to be panellists at this year’s CFO Agenda in London. It was a fantastic event that offered some great insights into the ever-changing world of the CFO.

Pure was on the panel alongside leading finance professionals from Centrica, Allianz, Coca-Cola, and Salary Finance. The focus of the discussion was around diversity across the finance function and the changes and challenges of talent acquisition.

The panel discussion was opened by the Managing Director at Pure, Ewen Burns. Burns introduced the segment by lifting the lid on the levers of transformation; technology, target operating model and talent, and the effects these are having in the finance world – how developments in technology are transforming the finance function and altering the capabilities that are in demand. Burns also discussed the importance of bridging the skills and generation gap across the function and the importance of making your business more attractive in the current talent-tight markets.

Panel Chair, Yemi Jackson, CEO & Founder at Engage Transform Consultancy kicked off the discussion with a question for Michael Clark, VP Finance & CFO at Coca-Cola asking how he has adapted his team around the current challenges in finance skillsets. Michael talked about the finance competency framework that Coca-Cola has put in place, which investigates the various skills that the teams need in order to become well-rounded finance professionals. They then look within different areas of the organisation in which they might be able to fill those skills gaps.

Next up was Markus Kobler, Global CFO at Allianz Global Investors, and Neil Herbert, Global CFO at Salary Finance explained how they attract and develop talent and how finance leaders can best equip themselves for the future. Kobler revealed that while they continue to recruit externally there is more of a focus on upskilling and developing current team members. He also touched on the growing importance of operations and communication skills within the finance function. Herbert identified three key pillars that will help the finance leader to equip themselves for change:

  1. Skills
    • It is important for leaders to understand where the skills gaps are and to what extent these gaps can be filled internally (through upskilling) or externally
    • When recruiting for skills externally, it is important to create an inclusive culture which supports a diverse team
  2. Change and learning muscle
    • Change is inevitable and it is vital to have change management process in place, however, it is also important to involve your team in these processes and create a learning culture within the team
  3. Equip yourself for change
    • Keep up with technological changes across the finance function

Emma Connell, Finance Director at Centrica added to this by highlighting the importance of providing team members with the opportunity and time to research, learn and trial new and emerging technologies.

Head of CFO Practice at Pure, Caroline Hudson provided insights into, not only the skillsets that CFO’s are currently looking for in candidates, but also the elements of a role that are of growing in importance to the candidate. From the candidate’s perspective, Hudson explained that there is less importance placed on the role and more of a focus on how they can really add value to the team and influence decisions, in all different areas of the business, not just finance. However, from the CFO’s standpoint, there is still very much a focus on the skillset which somewhat contradicts the candidate’s priority of ‘why does this business need me?’ and ‘what value can I bring to the team?’. Based on this conflict of requirements, Hudson emphasises the importance of developing and upskilling finance functions.

Bridging the generation gap was another key topic that was covered throughout the panel discussion, and Caroline Hudson explained that the responsibility for helping to close the gap lays at the feet of both the businesses and the candidates. In her position at Pure, Caroline helps candidates with managing their careers, ensuring that the moves they make are additive to their and the businesses journey. While it is also incredibly important for businesses to create opportunities for employees to step outside of their comfort zone and operate in environments which require them to demonstrate times when they have been involved in influencing decision-making. Herbert added to this point that bridging the gap is all about having conversations and being transparent about what your value proposition is, whether you are the employer or the candidate.

The conversation was rounded-off with a question around increasing diversity within the finance function. There were some interesting insights from the panel around how the function is already dealing with this issue and what it can do to further improve it. Hudson revealed that she is regularly asked by CFO’s to present diverse shortlists, demonstrating that firms are placing more importance on diversifying their teams. Connell presented an interesting observation around job descriptions, and how the wording for roles in the finance function is often not inclusive, being too technical with little focus on the benefits the company provides, such as flexibility etc.

Overall the CFO Agenda proved to be an incredibly insightful day which provided attendees with a unique opportunity to network, collaborate and solve the most pertinent business challenges facing the finance function in 2019 and beyond.