CFO Forum 2013
The CFO as a business partner
CFOs and finance directors from Ireland’s leading corporates, plcs, semi-state companies and multinationals attended the Deloitte CFO Forum on Thursday May 30th in the Four Seasons hotel. The forum focussed on the role of the CFO as a strategic business partner within their organisations.
Keynote speakers included Ian Livingston, CEO of BT plc, Brian Mehigan, CFO of Kerry Group plc, Donal Flynn, Group Finance Director of ESB, and Aogán O’hAoláin, Executive Director Finance, UK, France, Germany, of Dell EMEA.
Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Finance Directors of Ireland’s largest businesses gathered at the second annual Deloitte CFO Forum to hear the views of four eminent speakers on the key role that finance can perform to support and challenge the business, and how CFOs and their teams can be strategic business partners.
Recent years have seen a shift in the focus of CFOs and their finance teams; the complexity of today’s operating environment means that there is a need for a leaner and more responsive finance function. Finance has an increasing role to play in contributing to strategic decision making, driving business performance and acting as a catalyst for change.
While business partnering can manifest itself differently across organisations, a common theme is the focus on improved business performance and in turn shareholder value.
This retrospective provides a look at the key themes and insights from the forum.
CEO Perspective: Ian Livingston, CEO, BT Group plc
Ian Livingston became CEO of BT Group in 2008 having previously served on the Board as Group Finance Director and CEO of BT Retail. Under Ian’s leadership, free cash flow has tripled and BT has become one of the best performing European telco stocks over the past three years.
Ian structured his talk around his personal leadership maxims and their relevance for the CFO.
“First and foremost, CFOs are business leaders, and secondly a functional leader.” The CFO should be a true business partner aligned to the CEO’s priorities while being the biggest source of constructive critique. Ian also believes that diversity of experience and commercial acumen make better leaders and CFOs.
Transforming Finance: Donal Flynn, Group Finance Director, ESB
Donal Flynn became Group Finance Director of ESB in 2010. Prior to joining ESB, Donal was Chief Financial Officer for Airtricity, and has also worked in a number of finance roles with General Electric.
From the onset at ESB, Donal set three immediate priorities: raise €1.8 billion in funding, support delivery of a 25% reduction in ESB’s cost base and progress an ambitious programme to transform the finance function. At this forum, Donal outlined ESB’s journey to transform finance.
In theory, the finance manager’s role at ESB had a significant focus on business partnering with 40% of their efforts aimed at driving performance and supporting strategy. However, the reality was very different. Like many organisations, the finance teams were challenged by the huge amount of ad-hoc and transaction processing activity that impacted their ability to be effective business partners.
The solution spearheaded by Donal involved restructuring the operating model to reduce the transactional workload by 30%. This was achieved by eliminating duplication of effort and by consolidating some finance activities within a newly created business services centre. The result was a finance team more focused on providing value-add business partnering activities, such as strategic planning and decision support, to the business units .
Click here to view Donal's presentation slides.
Finance Analytics: Aogán O’hAoláin, Executive Director Finance, UK, France, Germany, Dell EMEA
Aogán O’hAoláin has held numerous finance roles in Dell, and prior to joining Dell was Finance Controller of AST Ireland.
At the outset of his presentation, Aogán highlighted how there has been an explosion of data in the last number of years together with an enhanced ability to use data. This has been a key driver for the increasingly important role finance analytics plays in today’s organisations. The availability of robust, timely data has in turn empowered the role finance can play as a business partner. Aogán shared his views on the key considerations in relation to financial analytics.
A key enabler to leveraging the full potential of analytics is the existence of a single source of truth and a consistent data set with one point of data entry. “We have moved to a single source of truth in Dell, a standard and consistent vision globally, regionally, countrywide and by segment,” said Aogán. It is imperative that information is used effectively with a focus on a few, but critical metrics that will direct the company towards delivering commercial gain. Finance analytics should drive business insights and help identify opportunities for improvement. It can be a key enabler to delivering a competitive edge by supporting a business to determine where time and resources should optimally be focused.
To propel analytics, Aogán recommends that it is worth investing in a programmes team to continuously drive improvements and efficiency.
Click here to download Aogán's presentation slides.
About the Deloitte CFO Programme
The CFO Forum is a key element of the Deloitte CFO Programme. This programme is our way of supporting CFOs through the many challenges and opportunities they will face in their role.
Other elements of the programme include finance leadership development initiatives, CFO Transition Labs, our quarterly CFO survey, and research and perspectives on topics of interest to CFOs.
Visit our CFO programme page to discover more.