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Only three FDs make 2011 Power List

The dust has settled on the latest Accountancy Age Financial Power List and recriminations have already begun. Highlighting the 50 most influential people in the accounting profession is not easy, but this year just three FDs grace the top table – half the number in last year’s list.

Highest-ranked is Vodafone group CFO Andy Halford at number five, though he is there for his new role as chairman of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors. This, and the change in direction he has planned for the FD lobbying group, cemented his place. But he probably would have made it into the upper echelons of our list anyway, due to his role in Vodafone’s seven-year negotiations with HM Revenue & Customs over a multi-billion pound tax bill – which was concluded in 2010.

Halford has said the Hundred Group, which has held its metaphorical cards close to its chest, will open its arms during his tenure. He intends for it to push for more competitiveness for UK business, most likely through government lobbying; his role on the Treasury’s forum on tax and compe-titiveness should help.

The other two FD entries are there on the basis of great work done in the past year.

At 14 is Julia Wilson, finance director of 3i. Last year proved very busy for her and the private equity giant, steering the business through a half-a-billion-euro sale of Dutch pump maker Hyva while the private equity market was virtually underwater.

However, 2011 could prove even more interesting for Wilson as she looks to offer outsourced finance services to clients.

In at 47 is Standard Life group FD Jackie Hunt. Less than a year into the job we have noticed her shaking up the insurer’s finance function, primarily through creating two senior finance roles.

Of course, having just three senior finance executives in the Power List (two, if you discount Halford who is in it for the Hundred Group) might seem pretty poor show. But 2010 has been a year of consolidation for finance executives. Most companies have steadied cashflow and organised debt positions, and the next year will be a time of modest growth and positioning. So 2011’s list is one to watch if you are an FD.

That is not to say the past two years have not seen Herculean efforts by the business finance community to stabilise UK PLC. But their efforts are often buried under more headline-grabbling stories, and quite frankly, it would be technically impossible to fit the hundreds of FDs who have led financial restructurings into a list of 50.

It is also interesting that our dynamic duo is female – there are just four female group FDs in the FTSE-100. It is fair to say that in general the top finance women are under the gaze of the press more than their male counterparts, so perhaps we notice their work more. But consider the huge businesses in which Hunt and Wilson work and what those industries have been through. Their places in the list have nothing to do with their gender.

Hopefully, 2011’s list will include a slew of FDs targeting big change – and making
big headlines.

Kevin Reed is deputy editor of Accountancy Age.
View the Power List here

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