In October 2022 we held a virtual Finance Leadership Programme with our partners, Grant Thornton. During the session, we heard from two senior finance professionals. They talked about their experience in the industry and gave us some career advice, which we’re going to share with you here.
What’s the Finance Leadership Programme?
This programme gives finance professionals the chance to develop skills and knowledge to advance their careers and achieve their full potential. It also includes a mentoring scheme for accountancy and finance professionals looking to advance their careers.
Neil Tween is CFO at Owlstone Medical, a global medical devices company based in Cambridge. They’re the creators of Breath Biopsy®, a breathalyser that collects and analyses breath samples to detect disease. Neil’s spent his career helping various companies in the biotech sector grow and develop, and has experience of working for NASDAQ, AIM and VC-backed organisations. He’s a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), and has a degree in maths from the University of Durham. He’s also a board trustee at the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and a keen runner.
Neil’s key insights
Neil started by telling us that you don’t necessarily need a long-term plan when it comes to your career. It’s more important to always be clear in your mind what you want to get out of your current role. For example:
- Can you take on more responsibility?
- Can you get involved in non-financial projects?
- What does the medium-term (6–18 months) look like for your role?
Neil also believes you should never be afraid to talk to recruiters, even if you’re happy in your current role. If nothing else it should give you some positive reinforcement that you’re in the right place, which is always a good thing.
Neil also talked about the importance of your people and unlocking their potential. It’s vital that you invest in your team. And finally, he asked us to remember that the best finance people go beyond just numbers. It’s important to learn what you’re interested in and differentiate yourself from others.
In his own words, ‘The best finance professionals are people who go beyond technical expertise, gain commercial experience and have a holistic outlook.’
Now working as UK CFO for the G’s Group near Ely, Francis Laud previously worked for the Marshall Group in Cambridge for over 30 years. He has experience of fast-growth environments and corporate finance, and leading large finance teams within private family-owned businesses. He’s held various finance leadership roles for 20 years and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Outside of work, you’re most likely to find him on his local football pitch.
Francis’ key insights
Francis is a big fan of the technique taught by Insights Discovery, a psychometric tool based on the psychology of Carl Jung. It’s a simple way to profile people’s personalities, which can help you influence them and negotiate, and build balanced teams. Francis recommends a book on this subject called Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson.
Francis prides himself on his positive, optimistic outlook on life, and believes it’s incredibly important to understand the power of positive relationships and communication. He has some more book recommendations in this area too: Whale Done! by Ken Blanchard and Drop the Pink Elephant by Bill McFarlan.
Being present is also important to Francis, as is giving 100% focus to whatever you are doing in the moment. ‘Let the next thing, or tomorrow, take care of itself,’ he told us. ‘And take negatives out of the conversation.’ He also talked about the importance of creating an environment where your people feel safe enough to perform at their best. He recommends The Present by Spencer Johnson as a good book to read in this area.
Francis decided a long time ago that he wanted to be the best CFO he could be. He worked hard to become a finance specialist with all-round technical knowledge to deliver services properly and, maybe, get the upper hand in negotiations. To do the same, he recommends keeping up with current affairs, technology, tax and finance generally.
In his own words
‘I went from being a rookie FD to becoming the one that I am today. My key piece of advice as a finance professional is to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand what you need to do to get the best out of them. Positive relationships and optimism are powerful.’
Interested in being mentored?
If you’re a finance professional looking to advance your career, get in touch and we’ll match you to a supportive CFO.