Nineteen ninety-nine is a special year for Financial Director: we celebrate our 15th anniversary. Ever since we launched in 1984 – under the title Financial Decisions – we’ve been championing the cause of the FD, informing him, generating ideas, talking about emerging trends – and delivering the occasional rebuke (sloppy pre-ASB accounting practices were a particular bugbear). We’ve talked about the single European market and the single European currency. We’ve shown how US financial reporting practices can set an example for the UK. Mergers, MBOs and mezzanine finance have all featured. And we’ve consistently and dismally forecast the death of the company car. We’ve also interviewed a hell of a lot of financial directors. One theme that we have returned to time and again is the changing face of the FD, the changing role of the finance function. Is it really changing? We think so. There are more ways to measure value – a word heard many times more often today than in 1984 – and more ways to deliver it. Outsourcing the finance function was as alien as outsourcing your own central nervous system, for example. It also seems to us that there is a growing body of FDs who are embracing the opportunities that are being created: they’re adding value, working as strategic business partners with their other board level colleagues. Beancounting just doesn’t come into it. They are also frighteningly young: eight FTSE-100 FDs are in their 30s. Others, however, are sticking to their spreadsheets, only having contact with other business managers when there is a problem or it’s budget time. Neither time is a good moment to show off what the finance function can do. Over the course of this year, we will be looking back at the issues and the people we’ve encountered over the last decade and a half. (You’ll instantly recognise our anniversary logo on those articles.) It’s part of our birthday celebration, but there’s a more important purpose: it’s only by knowing where we’ve come from that we can figure out where we’re all going.
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