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.
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