BIE’s CFO & Financial Leadership Team was delighted to host a CFO and NED dinner at the London Covent Garden Hotel on 18th May 2023. We were lucky enough to benefit from a wealth of experienced PLC and PE leaders, who created an opportunity to pause for thought and share learnings from their careers.
Alastair Marsh kicked off the evening perfectly by sharing his experience of moving from CFO to CEO and more recently into the Chairmans role. He could not express enough how he valued the opportunity to select a mentor who has challenged and supported him in equal measures through his career. Alastair described his reluctance to engage with the idea of a mentor during his transition to CEO, however the persuasion from the board ensured it was a smart move. The table agreed that mentors are a trusted guide who create the opportunity for total transparency in discussions regarding difficult topics which may not be easily raised around the executive table.
Patrick Butcher described how he has switched from Group CFO roles in companies including Network Rail, Go Ahead and Capita into the world of NED. He framed a question perfectly by stating, “I know the answer to my question from my perspective, but I would love to know what the table thinks with regards to behaviours from NEDs which are helpful or annoying”. There was a clear consensus that it is obvious to the management team when an NED is invested in the business, simply because they demonstrate their understanding of the mechanics and the makeup of the company. They really make the effort to build relationships with the board of directors and are vested in the decisions which are made, rather than focusing on the management of the share price. NEDs should continue to have the curiosity of mind which enabled them to rise to the top in their career.
Amy Luke, Senior Director, CFO & Financial Leadership at BIE, made the point that only 7% of CEOs think they have effective planning in their organisation. The conversation moved more towards future finance leaders and the importance of allowing potential successors the opportunity to experience presenting information to the board and building relationships with the audit chair or other NEDs. It was very clear that leaders should understand what they are trying to do with their potential successors and why they are trying to do it.
Simon Cordrey, Managing Director, Business Transformation at BIE, gave an update on the world of transformation - everyone in the room has had a wide experience of leading transformation, both positive and negative. Stephen Hill commented, “Implementing change to process or technology was the simple part; transformation tends to stutter when the business and people are not engaged on the journey. Investment in the change management process is massively understated and something that sponsors of the transformation should pay close attention to”. It was also clear that underperformance within the transformation team should be dealt with quickly to ensure there is no creaking at the edges.
With little conversation about the challenges on the geo-political landscape or the economic uncertainty, I sense the conversation flowed against the usual expectations and gave all attendees the opportunity to think about themselves for a moment and pose questions to the table which might not normally be asked.
Thanks to all who attended for making it an interesting and inspiring evening.