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Departure of Reckitt Benckiser CFO highlights growing trend

Colin Day’s departure from Reckitt Benckiser to focus on a portfolio of non-executive directorships highlights a growing trend for FDs to take on more non-exec jobs versus companies worrying their FD won’t have the time to devote to their day job.

While a couple of non-exec appointments is seen as healthy for an ambitious, well-placed FD, the rationale for Day’s departure was made very clear by the board. “Colin wants to focus on his portfolio of non-executive positions and other career interests, and the board has decided that now is a good time to appoint a successor keen to focus on leading the company’s finance function in support of the next stage of growth,” it said.

Day had just become a non-exec at Amec and has been a non-exec at WPP since 2008; previously he had been a non-exec at Imperial Tobacco, Cadbury and EasyJet.

But why are FDs taking on more non-exec roles? At an exclusive dinner for FTSE-250 and FTSE-100 FDs and audit committees Financial Director attended in November, the word was that FDs like Day – wealthy, highly successful and with little left to prove – see no reason to slave over what is increasingly the toughest and most thankless job on the board when they can have more fun and more impact with a string of non-exec gigs for the same money, but on three days a week and a couple of conference calls from home.

Day has always been open about his interest in non-exec jobs and where they can take a good FD. In 2006, he told The Times: “The decision is whether I go chief executive or non-executive.”

That comment was echoed in a story in Financial Director’s October issue following the rise of Halfords FD Nick Wharton, who has just become CEO of FTSE-250 furnishings retailer Dunelm – where he has been a non-executive director since August 2009.

Day’s comments suggest he has that role in mind with the decision to concentrate on his non-exec jobs. “Finance people are cut out to be good non-executive directors,” he said. “If I was going to go down that route, then the ultimate ambition has to be to take on a chairmanship.”

Meanwhile, one CFO who has just taken on his first non-executive role is Logica’s Seamus Keating, who has joined Mouchel’s board. We interviewed him earlier this year so he may be one to watch.

Read about Nick Wharton’s Dunelm move here and our interview with Seamus Keating here 

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