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What Do Finance Directors Really Do?
What Do Finance Directors Really Do?
You might think that being a finance director is all about Excel spreadsheets and number crunching. But Babington Group Finance Director Adrian Fantham is here to tell us why that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In his webinar, Adrian explains what his role is really all about, and shares his advice with aspiring finance directors. You can choose to attend live and put your questions to him, or receive a recording afterwards.
Adrian will look at the following topics and more.
How to become a finance director
If you’re a budding finance professional, don’t let not having a finance degree put you off setting your sights on the top job. You don’t have to have a degree at all, and what’s really important is that you gain industry-recognised qualifications that give you a proper understanding of current finance practices.
But qualifications are only half of it. It’s also essential to build up industry experience, which will ensure you’re comfortable applying theoretical knowledge to real-life situations.
Adrian was offered a trainee role when he started playing golf with an accountant. He became involved with the company’s management buyout, which then led to his first finance director role at the age of 25. He completed the AAT and CIMA qualifications part-time around his work, and says that ‘Doing the job on a day-to-day basis made gaining my qualifications much easier. Those who were studying for the qualification alongside me, but weren’t in a finance role, struggled because they couldn’t put the theory into practice.’
The responsibilities of a finance director
Adrian insists that he is ‘not a number cruncher’. Finance directors are there to support the broader goals of the business, not bury their heads in numbers. While they must obviously have an excellent understanding of finance, finance directors spend lots of their time getting to know the businesses they work with inside out, and making sure they’re aware of day-to-day needs.
It might surprise you, but being a finance director is not about being an expert in every aspect of finance. Instead, it means using the knowledge you have to think laterally about how to support and improve the business. According to Adrian, ‘It’s about understanding the business from all angles, and then applying your financial skillset to create the desired impact. You’ve got to be able to apply financial concepts to the real world, so that you can contribute to achieving exactly what the business needs.’
This demonstrates just how important it is to gain industry experience alongside qualifications. As Adrian explains, ‘It’s essential you develop your understanding through qualifications, but success in finance goes further than the textbook, and not everything you study will be applicable in every situation. A finance director’s role is not simply imposing things on a business because that’s what a textbook tells you to do; it’s about contextualising your knowledge, and working with others in the business to achieve broader goals.’
Skills needed to be a finance director
We’ve already seen the importance of lateral thinking and commercial awareness. But a massively underestimated skill when it comes to finance is communication.
Adrian sees communication as being at the heart of his role: ‘One of my biggest tasks is helping others from different parts of the business to see things in a financial way, and supporting them to understand the financial impacts of their actions.’
He claims that communication is even more important than being ‘a whiz with numbers’. He explains, ‘There are people in my team who are far better than me at reporting on the numbers in Excel, but my job is to make sure those numbers are communicated properly to the rest of the business, and to be able to communicate at all levels. It’s no use having a brilliant spreadsheet full of numbers if that’s not being fully applied and communicated to the rest of the business.’
To find out more about becoming a finance director, and to have your questions answered, join the webinar.
By Jannike Ohsten
• Babington Group
Published: 22 Jul 2016