Ready to harness the power of digital finance? With digital now in the driver’s seat, organisations are at a powerful tipping point for transformation, productivity and more informed decision making. We sat down with Ashley Gardner, Chief Financial Officer at David Jones & Country Road Group and put finance transformation under the spotlight.
What does digital finance mean to you?
Relevant information available to the key users whenever they need it. We’re a retail business and it is all about the customer. How do we use technology tools to make decision making fast, accurate and reliable on a day to day basis for our management teams? Finance’s role in the digital environment is to align its ways of working with the new expectations of customers and internal stakeholders – connected, real time and on demand information, self-service options etc.
What are the top challenges facing CFOs today?
Managing the volatility that is the new normal, especially in discretionary retail. Listening is critical – to our customers, our business partners, our shareholders. Consumers are more demanding than ever and have access to information, products and services from all over the world, not just in Australia. As CFOs, we are building new ways of working that will enable us to be more agile and help the business adjust quickly, in line with consumer sentiment. Ultimately, shareholders expect dividends and they want stability in those dividends and a return on their investment. We need to be able to manage the business to provide that stability and return through the cycles, focusing on the longer term but dealing with short term risks and opportunities as they arise.
The other reality for CFO’s is the increasing regulatory and governance agenda. We need to be able to continue to deliver valued added support to the business whilst also ensuring the appropriate level of controls and governance are established without an overload of bureaucracy. Investing in new technology is playing a key role in assisting with this objective.
How does having information at your fingerprints change the outlook of the next few years?
The role of finance becomes one that is truly valued and integrated within the business. We need to ask: where we are at and where are we going? What is going to change and what journey does the business needed to be taken on? It is those conversations that really drive the best outcome over the next three months, three years or ten years. That’s the key because in retail, every day that goes by is another day of sales, where you’re either ahead of plan or behind. What you do about it, is what defines the result in the end and it’s how you plan for the longer term that determines the real value that you can drive for shareholders.
What advice do you have for your peers who are yet to start the finance transformation journey?
You have to have a vision for what you are trying to achieve. And then you have to work out how that vision aligns with what the business needs. You need to make sure that you have buy-in from the CEO and other Executives. The key is to constantly move forward by adding value at all times. The only way you can add value is if you have real information and real insights, and the tools and ways of working need to make that as efficient as possible.
One of the things I’m really proud of is that I’ve had lots of people work with me who started the journey early on in their careers and have now gone on to great senior roles. It’s about giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential. And in the words of Nelson Mandela: “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
You have to listen, engage and understand. One of the key roles in finance is that you have to be the one that is objective and the one that pushes the boundaries around prioritisation. There’s always choices, and my job and my team’s job is to make sure that we’re helping the business make choices that drive value. To do that you have to be able to listen, to understand what’s going on and then provide relevant insight.
For more CFO Insights, please click here to view our most recent edition of CFO Sentiment – Positive global outlook drives optimism.