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Are finance directors the next generation of politician?

IT’S THE END of the political conference season and everything from taxation to measures reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training has been covered. Equally, conference season would not be the same without the occasion faux par or media sound byte that gets the News at 10 extremely vexed!

It has however, made me think about the ‘day job’. The well used phrase ‘well that saving can be deployed to fund that new development’ regularly repeated to the extent that the so-called saving has been spent a number of times is more prominent than ever. A new bankers tax anyone?

For example the new government initiative, ‘earn or learn’ has real merit providing its all joined up. The parallel; ideas come up in business all the time, the finance director needs to ensure it works…..

On a serious note, the role of the finance director is as much an architect of change as a custodian of the finances and a political negotiator. He or she needs to be a consummate politician to ensure that the financial aims of the business are met while ensuring the organisation grows and develops, without being hindered. We manage expansion and we manage contraction.

I have found that some of the best strategies have been those of logical reasoning. When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the most appropriate course of action. This process can be time consuming, but invariable ensures all accept and buy into the process and most importantly the outcome.

In and out of the boardroom – more so that ever – is a challenging environment and the FD is the hidden negotiator. Like politicians, we are often the first port of call when things go wrong, and are in the public eye increasingly. Some of us have a strong back up team (for politicians read Sir Humphry and his team) that crunch the data, but often it all rests with the leader. Our role is no longer just in the back office, it is far broader keeping the troops in line, ensuring that whatever plan is devised it will work, whilst ensuring critical support to the CEO and the business as a whole.

The role has changed beyond recognition in the last ten years from boom to bust and now the times of economic recovery. It is crucial that we inspire our teams and the wider business as well as giving a confident air despite what may be going on behind the scenes, and making sure the day job is done.

The financial director is the fixer, a ‘front man or woman’, the negotiator, the number two, and more so than ever the consummate politician. Life is never dull….

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is finance director at Hadlow College 

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