We find ourselves returning to this subject partly as a result of a survey that suggests FDs are retrenching to their traditional stewardship role since the collapse of Enron and the imposition of entire forests of “thou shalt not” rules, regulations and laws (details of the survey are to be found in Financial Directions on page 51). The survey didn’t surprise us since Sarbanes-Oxley obviously sent a lot of state-side CFOs – and not a few UK FDs – scurrying back to look over their numbers once more to make sure they weren’t going to feature in Enron II. Moreover, from a “personal risk management” point of view, no FD wants to be caught with their financial controls round their ankles.
But it’s also clear that there is still pressure for FDs to take on a more strategic role, working out not only what the future is going to be, but what the future could be. This takes the FD into dangerous territory, but armed and equipped with many of the skills that have served the FD so well. As Mark Goyder of the Centre for Tomorrow’s Company puts it in Robert Bruce’s column, board members have an opportunity to think about “the joined-up nature of their success and its measurement”.
Apart from those masochistic souls who take particular pleasure out of trying to rescue companies that are in a right old mess, no self-respecting FD really wants to have a CV where the main achievement listed is “Didn’t go bust”.
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