When joining any large finance team, one would expect to experience working in treasury, tax or investment relations functions as part and parcel of the job. Spending time meeting customers, going on the road with engineers and attending television screenings in Los Angeles would probably not feature very highly, if at all, on that list.
But these are precisely the areas that Andrew Griffith, CFO of BSkyB, wants his finance team to experience. While the financial skill set remains as important as ever, Griffith believes having a commercial finance team is just as essential to the business.
“Our finance team is very close to the business and that provides a diversity of finance roles. I will have somebody go to the LA screenings with the studio executive and pick what programmes to buy. At the same time I have got people looking after the broadband infrastructure and all of the different kit you need to put in different exchanges to run a broadband network,” Griffith tells Financial Director.
“We are very close to our customers. So that is true of finance as well. I encourage my finance colleagues to get out of the office, go and visit customers in their homes, sit on the telephone lines and listen to customers calling us, and obviously spend time with the programming departments,” he adds.
Most of these activities sound like things that should fall under the responsibilities of different areas of the business. Sky naturally has a customer services team and a programming department. So how does doing all this benefit finance, and more importantly how does finance add to this process?
According to Griffith, it is the wider view of the organisation that finance can provide. And by giving the finance team the chance to look at processes from an end-to-end perspective, finance can drive cost savings and efficiencies throughout the business.
“Somebody who goes out with an engineer might gain an insight about how our set-top boxes work and how we can make them more reliable that they can then take back into the manufacturing process,” Griffith says. “One of our big wins over time has been reducing cost and finance is a big part of that because they have got the analytical skills and the whole company perspective, rather than somebody who spends all their life working in one particular silo of the business.”
Our full interview with Andrew Griffith will be published in the April 2010 issue of Financial Director and at http://www.financialdirector.co.uk/features-interviews